In an attempt to respond to changing demography and transport needs as well as a significant modal shift towards private vehicles, the newly established Budapest Transport Association aims to integrate public transport services and lure back commuters to using public transport. While the most expensive infrastructure investments are still to come, the Association has demonstrated it provides a viable and attractive framework for further service development.
Background & Objectives
Since 1990 the population of Budapest decreased by 16%, while the number of people in the agglomerations increased by 28%. Considering also the fact that - as opposed to those living within Budapest - the preferred way of agglomeration commuters is by car (71% of trips), the creation of an integrated public transport system had high strategic importance.
The Budapest Transport Association was established in September 2005 to respond to this challenge. It provides integrated transport services to Budapest’s agglomerations and aims to provide an attractive alternative to motorized transport. A fully integrated system is being phased in gradually, over a period of five years. The system serves 3.5 million inhabitants (Budapest: 1.8 million), 188 settlements and an area of 15 thousand square kilometers.
The Budapest Transport Association was established through the cooperation of the Budapest Transport Company, the Hungarian Railways and regional bus carriers. It is operated as an umbrella organisation and is owned and financed by the Ministry of Economics and Transport and Budapest Municipality.
As part of phase one, the tariff structures of railway and interurban bus services were harmonized. Passengers could now purchase single combined passes - with possible annual savings of up to 300 EUR! Lost income is compensated through an agreement between the founding Ministry and the Municipality.
In an attempt to increase network integration a number of actions were taken. Areas so far unserved by public transport were brought in the system. The number of direct bus lines were increased and the need for changing was reduced. For example, as a result of reconfiguring the operations of one particular transport hub (“Pestszentimre - Centre”) the number of departures was reduced from 308 to 127, while at the same time the number of total passengers even increased. Crowding, waiting times and the number of parking buses could also be reduced as a result.
After successful trials on two railway lines, regular interval departures were introduced: with 30 minute intervals connecting 11 towns) and 1 hour intervals (connecting also 11 nearby towns). In peak hours the intervals are more frequent.
While the most expensive and visible infrastructure developments are still to come, as a result of an already established cooperative framework and future strategy, individual projects are now implemented with this integrity in mind.>For example the new intermodal transport hub of Érd (merged neighbour settlement to Budapest) includes a park & ride facility, a railway stop, a bus terminal and a shopping centre.
In order to reduce (or rather to grade) financial strain of the programme, a time schedule has been established defining several stages in the creation of Budapest's integrated public transport system:
– On 1st September 2005, combined transport passes were launched. As the first step of implementing the Budapest Transport Association, holders of a combined pass are entitled to board all commuter trains and coaches within Budapest city limits, in addition to the BKV services. Hungarian State Railways (MÁV) and regional bus carriers (Volán companies) joined forces with BKV Budapest Transport in issuing these new combined transport titles.
– Implementation of a unified tariff system extending to all carriers by means of an electronic ticket validating system (to be introduced by 2010).
– Realisation of the fully-fledged public transport system (after 2010).
Following the 2010 municipal elections, the General Assembly of the Municipality of Budapest decided on introducing a new city management model. Within this concept framework, the Municipality created two new integrated bodies: one for the unified management of public utility and other public service companies (Budapesti Városüzemeltetési Központ, literally the Centre for Budapest City Management) and the other for the coordination and management of all transport-related activities. This latter body is the Budapesti Közlekedési Központ (literally translated as Centre for Budapest Transport, referred to as BKK).
As part of the first phase of establishing the Budapest Transport Association the most basic and cost-efficient measures were implemented. As a result the availability of public transport services to groups of commuters has significantly improved. The transport network was rationalized and adopted to changing needs. This phase has shown the potentials and provides solid foundations for the next, highly capital-intensive phase: the introduction of a unified electronic ticketing system, a fully integrated timetable and passenger information system, much more visible marketing and public relations, and most importantly, investing into the physical infrastructure (e.g. by establishing or extending intermodal transport hubs, building new stations and developing commuter light rail systems).