Background

Budapest became a co-capital in 1873, when it was a part of Austro-Hungarian Empire. After some attempts to acquire independence Hungary found itself in the socialist camp of the USSR at the end of World War II. Finally, country became independent in 1989 and in 2004 joined the European Union. Since that time it has undergone great changes towards urban development with the help of EU Cohesion Policy funds.

The Hungarian population today is 9.843 million people, while the population of Budapest is about 1.774 million, which represents 17 percent of the Hungarian total.

After the establishment of the BKK (the Centre for Budapest Transport), the first notable landslide in Budapest public transportation system happened in July 2014. The BKK introduced new automatic ticket machines that were able to pass out tickets and passes 24/7 and accept both cash and credit cards for payment. Moreover, the public bicycle-sharing hire system “MOL Bubi” started its trials. But not all the novelties meet the demands of the time and fulfill their functions.

Budapest Public Transportation System Transformation

Shift to electric cars, hydrogen cars and hybrid cars. First of all, it should be stated that Hungary accommodates the Evopro Company that produces the ultra-lightweight electric city bus “Modulo”. A 20 piece electric bus fleet was sold to the city of Budapest in 2016.

Since 1 March 2015 twenty-eight diesel-powered hybrid buses started their work in Budapest. At 10-20 km per hour speed these buses use solely electric power, which leads to a noiseless and smokeless environment on the bus stops.

In autumn 2016 the General Assembly of Budapest signed an agreement with the Ministry of National Economy on the electric vehicle charger infrastructure construction. The charger network will consist of 1.100 charging points plus 100 fast chargers by the year 2019. Now around 90 charging locations are in operation in Budapest.

Increase in bicycle usage. In the spring of 2014, the MOL Bubi public bike sharing scheme was introduced in Budapest. By August 2017 there are 1.486 MOL Bubi bikes available at 123 docking stations. Bikes can be used around the clock with a quarterly, annual or a semi-annual pass or using a 24-hour, 72-hour or 7-day ticket.

In October 2014 Eurobarometer survey service presented the study on the transport habits of the EU member states. Answering to the question “On a typical day, which mode of transport do you use most often?” 22 percent of Hungarian citizens responded “bicycle”. The Netherlands (36 percent) and Denmark (23 percent) were the leaders in this field. Moreover, the survey also showed that Hungary and the Netherlands were the only two countries with quite small differences between the proportions using a bicycle and a car (Hungarian result: 22 percent against 33 percent).

“Last-mile” issue (door-to-door mobility). According to the Oxford Dictionary, the “last-mile” term traces roots back to freight traffic activity and stands for “the distance from a central depot or other offloading point to the final delivery destination”. Later this term was also implemented to the practices of passengers’ conveyance.

The main stakeholders of the last-mile problem are people with special needs and elderly people. This problem is being tackled by the BKK through procurement of low-floor vehicles (in the timetable of trolleybuses, buses and trams you can see departure times of low-floor transport mode; they are underlined).

It is important to mention the special service operating in Budapest that is called “Midibus”. It is a door-to-door transport service for physically challenged and elderly people. The service can be provided on demand ordered in advance via phone and the price of the ride equals the discount ticket of usual public transport fare.

Multi-modal travel scheduling. The FUTÁR (Traffic Management and Passenger Information) system became an integral part of public transportation in Budapest in 2013. It operates with the help of GPS-based automated vehicle location (AVL) and passenger information system for surface transport. All on-road vehicles are equipped with a satellite geographical positioning system making available real-time information for traffic control and passenger information as well as for service and managerial objectives.

Web-site and smart phone applications “BKK FUTÁR” give the possibility for passengers to plan their trips using all available transport modes (except bicycle) in real time. There is a possibility to plan your journey while taking into consideration departure time or desirable arrival time to the final destination.

A huge number of stops and metro stations are equipped with electronic displays, which show the sharp time of the next vehicle arrival. Moreover, display screens can be found on board of some transport modes. In addition, displayed information is synchronized with the audio announcements.

Integrated intermodal ticketing. The World Road Association defines integrated ticketing as a system, which “enables a traveler to complete a journey using several public transport modes with a single, simple to use, method of cashless payment at an optimally low fare. Integrated intermodal ticketing helps to smooth the process of switching between transport modes during a single journey”.

New automatic ticket machines were installed in 2014 and changes to the ticket tariff system were also made. Monthly passes became available for citizens with the identification of the user. It can be made with the help of student IDs, BKK photo IDs, passports, and driver’s licenses.

The transportation system in the capital of Hungary is unified, that is why the same tickets are valid for all kinds of transport and have a fixed price (except tickets purchased on the spot and suburban trains). Moreover, tourism oriented tariffs were introduced: 24 and 72-hours unlimited usage ticket, as well as weekly passes. Discounts for seniors, students, children, and people with disabilities are also provided. Monthly and daily passes give an opportunity to change the transportation modes without any validation procedure, which gives us ground to speak about integrated ticketing. Meanwhile, a one-trip ticket can be used only during the journey in one transport mode. So, even if passenger needs to travel by metro and then change to tram, s(he) should buy two tickets.

The validity and proper belonging of the tickets can be checked by the ticket inspectors, who still operate in Budapest. These transport workers always stand in the entrance of the metro station, while they rarely inspect your travel documents in the exit. Even less frequently passengers can meet them in the buses, trolleybuses or trams. In the case of travel ticket absence or wrong documents, passenger will be fined. Moreover, the entrance to the public transport vehicles and metro stations has no physical obstacles (aside from inspectors in the underground and ferries). According to the Hungarian economic daily Napi Gazdaság, in 2014 around 363,000 fare dodgers were caught by inspectors. It goes without saying that they were fined, but at the same time the questions that have to be answered still exist: “Why is the number so big?” and “How to solve the problem?”.

The other disputable issue of the new ticket system is travel tracking and its absence. Travel tracking is an important option for travel operators to see which routes are more popular, or what parts of the city are in a lack of connection between each other. Moreover, it shows charge capacity of the transport in particular hours, which gives a ground for providing more vehicles on the route or vice versa.

The best solution for the city would be the implementation of a smart ticketing system: single card with contactless ID-based payment systems throughout the journey and multi-access consumer information. This system was successfully implemented in London (Oyster), Bologna (Mi Muovo), Switzerland (Swiss Pass) etc.

Conclusion

The Budapest public transportation system is still in the process of improving. The bus fleet was enriched with electric buses and hybrid vehicles. Moreover, the number of electric charging stations is constantly growing around the city, which also makes it attractive for citizens to buy e-cars for private usage.

One of the aims of the “Budapest Transport Development Strategy 2014-2030” is to make cycling more popular among citizens. And Budapest makes it possible with the creation of a public bike sharing scheme, which received name “MOL Bubi”.

Door-to-door mobility was improved with the help of Midibus service introduction. It is very useful for physically challenged and elderly people; especially taking into account the fact of providing services for the common public transport fare (with discount).

Passenger information became more visible and practical. Users can plan their trips in real time with BKK FUTÁR application. Many bus stops became equipped with display screens. Some vehicles also received on-board screens with real-time information about the trip. So even tourists, for whom it is quite difficult to recognize names by ear, can easily orient on displays.

References

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