From Iceland — Coffee, Buses and Laptops: A Good Mix?

Coffee, Buses and Laptops: A Good Mix?

Published August 10, 2007

Coffee, Buses and Laptops: A Good Mix?

Since the bus schedule as we know it in Reykjavík debuted in the fall of 2005, public transportation has been swamped with problems. Many have criticised the new plan and claim that it doesn’t serve customers properly.
One of the reasons given for the criticism was the increase of distance from residential areas to the bus stops. Anyone who’s been in Iceland during the winter can understand why these concerns were raised – it’s easy to get terribly wet and ice cold. Senior citizens travel by bus frequently but after the changes some had to refrain from using public transportation since the walking distance had simply increased too much for them.
It’s All About Money
Prices have also been an issue; many find 280 ISK per ride to be a little bit too much. When you are not a frequent customer it doesn’t really serve a purpose to buy the tickets or cards that give you a discount. Regardless, one might like to visit a relative on the other side of town or go with a couple of friends to the mall. Going with a two friends to the mall and back will cost 1680 ISK for three persons. If you’re not a frequent passenger this is your price. Therefore, a frequent passenger buys a yellow, green or a red card that allows unlimited rides for a certain amount of time. 5000 ISK a month in transport money is doable for most people and very cheap compared to owning a car.
This year saw a new problem for the company that runs the Reykjavík bus-system, Strætó bs. The company has financial problems and in the spring they decreased their travel frequency to one trip per half-hour. The reason is the fact that less people use the bus during the summer. Schools are closed and many prefer to ride their bikes or walk. In spite of the powerful reasoning for the cutbacks in service, bus riders are not satisfied. Many are leaving the bus system behind and refuse to take the bus anymore because it doesn’t enable them to get to work on time.
How Much Time Does One Have? It can take a long time to travel from A to B. A good example could be someone who lives on the Westside of Reykjavík and works at the mall, Smáralind. The passenger leaving with bus number 13 from Öldugrandi at 07:38 in the morning will come to the major bus stop Hlemmur at 07:51 to catch the number 2 to Smáralind. When at Hlemmur, the traveller finds that bus number 2 doesn’t leave until 08:16 and has to wait for 25 minutes. The bus ride from Hlemmur to Smáralind takes 26 minutes which puts our passenger outside the mall at 08:46. If this person has children, he or she could face serious problems showing up on time after dropping them of in daycare before leaving for work. Because of this time glitch in the schedule, many people give up and buy cars – it simply saves much needed time.
The fate of bus number 5 has been widely discussed among those who care for public transportation in Reykjavík. One of the biggest arguments for the changes made in 2005 was that the suburban areas needed a faster connection to other parts of the city. Therefore the buses numbered from 1 to 6 were supposed to be express routes serving the purpose of connecting different areas of Reykjavík, quickly. Their travel frequency was 10 minutes before the half-hour rule came in effect on June 1. The bus number 5 connects Árbær with downtown Reykjavík. Árbær is a large suburban area which incidentally is rather easy and quick to access even if it’s further away than Breiðholt or Laugarnes. In kilometres, it’s still far away and needs a proper transportation plan. The number 5 that used to go straight from Árbær to downtown Reykjavík through Miklabraut now has altered its ways and drives Sæbraut instead. This means that instead of passing Skeifan, Kringlan, The University of Iceland and Landspítalinn – University Hospital (biggest hospital in Iceland), the number five passes the neighbourhood where IKEA used to be, the ferry to Viðey and Laugarásbíó (a movie theatre). This new arrangement has outraged many passengers in Árbær because they simply don’t need to reach that neighbourhood. Well, of course there exists people who do, but one must realise that the hospital alone employs roughly 4500 people. The University employs about half of that number and one can estimate that Skeifan and Kringlan mall share a fairly high amount of workers. The people of Árbær cannot take the bus to work as much as before – at least not within their usual timeframe. The number 19 covers a little but doesn’t drive on the main roads and thus does not serve the connection purpose of the main lines.
The City’s Proposal Reykjavík’s city council has proposed a new plan to attract customers. Students get to ride for free and bring their coffee to go with them. Not only will passengers be allowed to bring coffee on the bus, but some buses will be equipped with wireless internet connection. Then passengers can chill with their laptops and their coffee while they go to school or work during rush hour in the morning – being that they have to be on the bus for so long. Gísli Marteinn Baldursson, a member of the city council, says in a recent interview on that this is to ensure comfort for passengers. Others, mainly loud bloggers and bus passengers, say that increasing the travel frequency, building better sheds at bus stops around the city and lower prices would help more. Getting to work on time, staying dry and saving money seems to be their priority.

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