Public commuting on the rise

  • 2005-03-23
  • By TBT staff
RIGA - As fuel prices continue to grow, more and more Latvians are leaving their cars at home and pushing their way onto buses, trams and trains. Accord-ing to the statistics office, the use of public transportation increased by as much as 9 percent last year, a trend that is set to continue.

"In principle, there are three aspects contributing to last year's growth: the route network has become more publicly accessible, fuel prices are growing and the quality of public transportation has increased," said Andrians Lublins, a spokesperson for the passenger transportation department.

Buses running on regular routes carried 195.8 million passengers in 2004, up 9 percent year-on-year, while buses on international routes saw a 4.9 percent rise in passengers.

Electric transportation also saw an increase. In total, 176.9 million passengers used city trams and trolleybuses in 2004 's up 6 percent from 2003. The majority of this number 's 89 million 's chose to travel by trolley, while 87.9 million passengers took trams, up 8.2 percent year-on-year.

By January 2008, the Trans-port Ministry hopes to have developed an entirely new transportation system, which falls in line with EU standards. The system will better accommodate the needs of its users, both financially and in terms of accessibility, says Lublins.

"We have to change the financial model," he said. "It will have to be adjusted to meet the public's needs, as well as satisfying system operators and drivers."

The biggest problem facing the ministry, he added, is bridging the gap between the level of public transportation in Riga and the rest of the country. Presently, due to economic and population factors, a huge disparity between the "two Latvias" exists.

"There's a big difference in the quality of public transportation when you compare Riga to the rest of the country. This is a problem we have to attack, and we're working on it now," Lublins explained.

Meanwhile, the number of railway passengers last year also grew by 3.9 percent. This included 23.5 million people traveling on domestic routes (up 4 percent) and 400,000 international passengers (down 2.2 percent).

Thanks to the arrival of low-budget airlines Ryanair and Easyjet on the market, the number of passengers at the Riga International Airport nearly doubled last year, shooting up 49 percent to 1.06 million people.

Travel by sea, on the other hand, saw no such numbers. Riga Passenger Port last year served 229,400 people, falling 17.5 percent from 2003. Some 46 percent of those commuted by ferry, while the rest traveled by cruise ship.