Public transport in Norway must win the battle over cars

30 June 2015  •  Author(s): Oddmund Sylta, Managing Director, Skyss

Public transport must win

‘The number of cars on the roads shall not increase, even though the population is growing’. This is the ambitious political goal adopted by national and regional authorities in Norway. However, getting more people to use public transport is challenging in a country where people live spread out in urban areas, and where the private car is still given priority in urban planning. Welcome to Hordaland County on the west coast of Norway, where public transport has seen significant growth in recent years as a result of, among other things, the investment in Bergen Light Rail. Oddmund Sylta, Managing Director of Skyss, explains more.

Keeping up with demand

In Bergen, Norway’s second biggest city, forecasts show that the city’s population will increase by more than 20% in the next 15 years. If the whole growth in passenger transport is to be covered by means of transport other than private cars, the public transport agency Skyss has calculated that the number of daily public transport journeys has to increase by 200% by 2040. This will require a five-fold increase in public funding in 2040 compared with 2012.

Bergen has a population of around 270,000. In terms of area, the city is as big as the capital Oslo, but the latter has more than twice as many inhabitants. In Bergen, urban planning has been based on passenger car transport for many decades. Between 1998 and 2007, the number of passenger cars in Bergen increased by 43%. The construction of homes in Bergen has not kept up with the population growth and the increase in house prices since the 1990s has forced more and more people to move out to the municipalities around Bergen. This has resulted in a rise of commuters and ever-increasing car traffic.

The publicly-owned public transport agency Skyss was established in 2007, after the politicians in Hordaland voted to put the county’s public transport out to tender. Since its formation, Skyss has worked on major restructuring of the public transport system, which at the time had not undergone any significant improvements for many decades. From 1993 to 2003, there was a negative trend in public transport in Bergen, and, with only a few exceptions, passenger numbers were declining from year-to-year…

 

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