Stavanger Makes All Public Transportation Free of Charge!

Most Norwegian cities are working on different ideas and plans to get more people to use the public transportation system instead of driving their cars, but it’s not as easy as it might sound. However, Stavanger believe that their new idea might actually get people to get on the bus, ferries and trains.

Stavanger municipality tried to get more people to use public transportation by making it completely free within the city border. This allows anyone to ride the train, buses or even ferries in Stavanger without paying for a ticket!

Stavanger. Photo published with permission.

Stavanger municipality is going to take the entire bill for the public transportation system starting on July 1, 2023, and expects it to cost somewhere in the vicinity of 200 million Norwegian kroner, which is roughly 18 million USD.

The municipality has agreed to front the cost for public transportation system for 1 year, but say that they are open to keep it this way is it has the desired results.

However, that will entirely depend on which parties get elected to run the municipality, seeing as there is a local election in Norway in September 2023.

The local politicians have no idea how to actually make it happen

Despite being just over 1 month from taking place, the local politicians don’t really have any details or real plans on exactly how they will make the entire thing work. They pretty much only know that they want to pay the entire cost for public transportation in the city, but have no idea how to best solve it.

This means that it’s currently not known if they will just remove the requirement to even get a ticket inside the city of Stavanger, or if they are going to issue special tickets that allows for free use to their citizens.

It seems likely that they will choose a simple system like removal of tickets, seeing as issuing special tickets or anything like that will cost additional money, and probably be a big hassle for the users.

This will also affect how the free transportation will affect tourists. The project is meant to make public transportation free for citizens within Stavanger municipality, but it seems likely that it will also provide free public transportation for tourists as well.

That said, we just need to wait and see how the system will be like to get a definite answer.

Stavanger at Night
Stavanger at Night.

How Stavanger municipality can afford to offer free public transport to their citizens

The municipality of Stavanger has a bank account with roughly 2 billion Norwegian kroner ($180 million USD), making it one of Norway’s richest municipalities. They generally make more money from tax income than they spend, allowing them to spend a lot of money on spectacular projects like this one.

The reason Stavanger is so rich in the first place is because it is considered the oil capital of Norway. A high percentage of oil industry workers in Norway live in Stavanger. These guys have a very high income, which means a lot of tax income for the municipality.

The average income for Stavanger’s inhabitants are significantly higher than the average income in Norway.

Troll A, one of Norway's many offshore oil platforms. Photo by Swinsto101 / CC BY-SA 3.0.
Troll A, one of Norway’s many offshore oil platforms. Platforms like this one employs many of Stavanger’s citizens. Photo by Swinsto101 / CC BY-SA 3.0.

How will free public transportation affect the citizens?

The main reason why Stavanger want to make public transportation free is to increase the use of the system, and reduce the use of cars.

We have absolutely no idea if this change will change much. You currently need to pay around 650 NOK ($55 USD) for a 1 month unlimited use card, which isn’t really that much when you consider in the fact that Stavanger’s residents are generally wealthy. And 650 Norwegian kroner per month is generally considered inexpensive even for people with below average income.

It is far more expensive to use a car to drive to work compared to using public transportation, so many people believe that this change to make it free won’t affect anything at all.

Stavanger is also not known to have the best public transportation system, with its citizens complaining about too few departures, and too long distances between stops.

The municipality hopes that the bus companies will be able to set up additional bus lines and more frequent departures, but they have yet to come to an agreement with the bus company in the city.

Stavanger is not known to have the best public transportation system in Norway. Far from it..

Will it be free to ride the bus to Prekestolen (Pulpit Rock), Kjerag and other tourist attractions?

Stavanger is on close proximity to some of Norway’s most popular natural tourists attractions like Pulpit Rock and the Kjerag mountains, but buses to and from these places will not be free for neither tourists nor regular Norwegian citizens.

The reason is simply because these natural attractions are all outside of Stavanger’s municipality limits, so you need to pay as usual once you get out of Stavanger municipality.

This means that the ferry to Lysebotn (to get to Kjerag) and buses to the starting point for the hike to Pulpit’s Rock will still cost money just as usual, seeing as it’s outside of Stavanger city’s border.

Kjerag is popular among hikers, as well as people base jumping.
Kjerag is popular among hikers, as well as people base jumping.

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