New fare hike ‘shamelessly’ high

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New public transit fares were taking effect in Oslo on Wednesday, and already have been been dubbed as “shamelessly” high. It now costs NOK 50 for a single-ride, full-fare ticket, the equivalent of nearly nine US dollars.

A single ticket bought on board an Oslo tram like this now costs NOK 50. At right, the residence of the Swedish ambassador, whose capital has much lower fares. PHOTO: Views and News

“This is just way too expensive,” Gunnar Larssen, leader of the Norwegian capital’s merchants’ association Oslo Handelsstands Forening, told newspaper Aften. He’s afraid shoppers will stop traveling into the city and opt for shopping centers with free parking instead.

“We don’t have any official statistics for this, but for those who don’t use public transport every day and have discounted monthly or annual passes, this is shamelessly high,” Larssen said.

He mentioned an example of a family from Lier, about a half-hour drive west of Oslo, who checked what it would cost to take the train into Oslo and then use public transit, to do some Christmas shopping in December. “They found out it would cost them nearly a thousand kroner (about USD 178),” Larssen said. “This leads to people dropping a trip into Oslo, or they’ll drive. Parking places are also few and expensive, but cheaper than traveling on public transit.”

Therein lies the problem for local politicians trying to encourage people to take the bus or tram instead of driving, to reduce traffic and pollution. Many think public transit already was expensive in Oslo, compared to most other cities around the world, and buses and trams are also packed during the rush hours. Local media have nonetheless been full of reports during the past week that proposals loom for even higher, punitive tolls on cars during the commuter rush and removal of more parking, to force people over to the public transit system.

Boosting fares for a single ticket bought on board a bus or tram from NOK 44 to NOK 50 as of February 1 is not the best way to promote its use. For tourists, who are the most likely to buy tickets on board instead of figuring out how to buy them in advance at a discount, the new fares are likely to provide another case of Norwegian price sticker shock. The new fares compare to just DEK 24 in Copenhagen and SEK 36 in Stockholm.

The politicians, though, prefer to hold down prices on monthly passes and discourage single-ticket purchases, arguing that ticket-buying on board delays departures. And officials are Ruter, which operates the metro area’s transit system, contend that fares on average have gone up just 3.2 percent.

“The increase for the single-fare tickets bought on board is aimed at encouraging advance sales,” Gro Tvedt Anderssen of Ruter told Aften. Tram and bus drivers themselves would like to do away with sales on board, to avoid being responsible for cash and for security reasons.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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