From Iceland — At The Route Of The Problem

At The Route Of The Problem

Published October 2, 2023

At The Route Of The Problem

Uncovering the physics and intrigue of Reykjavík’s transit system

Time doesn’t seem to pass as you hold your phone to the scanner. You slam against the steps as the underpaid driver floors it before you can sit down. The bus has stopped eight times and you’ve already been aboard for 40 minutes – 40 more and you’ll be halfway there. Is time passing slower? If this feels woefully familiar, I’m sorry, because it means you too have been subjected to the horrors of Strætó, Reykjavík’s public transit system.

Long has Reykjavíkurborg tormented the people of the capital area with its horrendous buses. The city grew, the population grew, yet the infrastructure seems archaic at times. I believe that is by design. So, despite Strætó’s false claims, despite my friend’s and family’s insistence that “this is a stupid idea” and despite the many strangers who warned me not to go down this path lest I face the consequences, I will get to the bottom of this. To the internet!

What the hell is a Borgarlínan? Many Icelanders have heard whispers within the upper echelons of society of a bus rapid transit system, or BRT. This proposed system would create sleek designated bus lanes, high-tech bus stops and perhaps even an eventually upgrade to *gasp* light rail.

The plans, which have been floating around since 2015, employ a language that gives me relatable tech CEO vibes. Though the “seamless” integration and the “clean” design are appealing, I wonder whether it will truly give me a “feeling that ‘something big has arrived.’” Well, I am not one to be an armchair transportation critic. If I want to judge this plan, I’ll have to do my own tests.

I decided on a simple experiment. I would use a stopwatch while travelling between two set destinations. Once with a car, once with a bus, and once on foot. I decided to travel from The Grapevine offices to IKEA – a scientific choice as, 1. It is a large distance to cover 2. The path has multiple routes I can test. 3. I was craving meatballs.

In a car with a busted axle, it took me 00:25:37 to get there and I only threw up once. The Strætó, which I illegally boarded with a child pass, took me 01:12:24 and I only threw up thrice. I decided not to walk as I wanted to keep the meatballs down this time.

But this is an incredibly large difference in time. It was a discrepancy that I couldn’t account for.

In theory, neither method of transport should have been able to get there through the dogshit traffic, yet both reached the destination. It’s impossible, but here it was. Time…

I believe I have an explanation and I am 100% convinced that the many physicists I’ve contacted would agree if only they’d stop ghosting me.

You know in those sci-fi movies they take a piece of paper and slam it down, fold it, and then stab a pencil through it. It’s like that but in reverse. The buses travel through designated wormholes that make the travel time longer than the actual distance covered. This is the truth Reykjavíkurborg does not want us to know! They’ve had bus-slowing technology for years!

How else could they even think of fitting a Borgarlínan in the streets of Reykjavík? How else could they maintain such bad service for so long? Why else would there be cars all over this tiny island? How else could they – What was that? They’ve come for me! Don’t believe Strætó, don’t believe Ráðhús or Dagur B. Trust no one.

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