Investments in bus services are conspicuous by their absence
It is inherently positive that investments are being made in transport and the planning of infrastructure development and housing construction is being coordinated across timescales and location. At the same time, Region Stockholm’s Public Transport Plan 2050 shows how bus traffic and its infrastructure are critical for a functioning transport system, writes Katarina Liljefors, infrastructure expert at PA Consulting.
Most indications point to an increased need for public transport in Stockholm. The county is growing, by 2050 Stockholm County is forecasted to have over 3 million inhabitants, while congestion on the roads, more expensive car transport and the need for climate-smart means of transport indicate that more passengers will want and need to travel more by public transport. The development of bus services requires a complex collaboration between different public actors. Someone needs to lead and drive this collaboration, and Region Stockholm appears to be the obvious party for that task.
Major investments in public transport in Stockholm in recent years have been made in rail transport as a result of special negotiation processes initiated by the state. Corresponding investments in bus traffic have been conspicuous by their absence, despite the fact that it currently accounts for about 40 percent of the county’s public transport journeys.
Bus traffic is critical to achieving the goals
Region Stockholm is responsible for the operation of public transport and the management of the metro and tramways infrastructure. But the region lacks control over a large part of the bus traffic infrastructure. The county’s 26 municipalities are responsible for the small and medium-sized roads in the county, and through their planning monopoly have power over how the land is to be used whether that is for housing, parks, shopping centres, sports facilities – or a depot for public transport vehicles. The Swedish Transport Administration is responsible for the major roads.
In the 2010s, the state initiated the Stockholm and Sweden negotiations. The results of these rounds of negotiations for Stockholm included four new metro lines, almost 180,000 new homes, a new tramway, an extension of Roslagsbanan to the city centre and an extension of the metro depot. It is clear that the infrastructure investments in Stockholm that have been controlled from the state have been characterized by developments in rail traffic.
Not the same investment costs
It is inherently positive that these investments are being carried out and that infrastructure development and housing construction are being planned together across time and location. At the same time, the Region’s Public Transport Plan 2050 shows that bus traffic and its infrastructure are critical for a functioning transport system and for achieving the goals of the region’s development plan, RUFS 2050. The estimated increased demand for bus travel is mainly going to come from routes where traffic is already high-frequency and congested, including from Tyresö, Haninge and Värmdö, towards the city. The current terminal and bus stop areas are not the right size for more buses and passengers during rush hour, and increased bus traffic means an increased need for depot space, and thus land. Add to this the need for changes to the road infrastructure to increase buses’ ability to pass traffic and so speed it up and increase their attractiveness. All this is needed make better use of resources and provide greater availability in both a short time and at a relatively low cost.
Development of bus traffic in Stockholm with its infrastructure does not require the same high investment costs as the development of rail traffic. However, the complex division of responsibilities between the public organisations concerned, each with different missions, objectives and budgets means inertia and uncertainty among the parties involved. That slows down development.
In order to develop bus traffic, the region, municipalities and the Swedish Transport Administration need to come together to set common concrete goals for the development of bus journeys and a roadmap for how and when those goals are to be achieved. The region is the natural partner to lead and drive such a collaborative process.