Monday, January 21, 2013

Bike sharing coming to Hungary in March

Velov, the bike-sharing system in Lyon.
In March, Szeged expects to beat out Budapest to become the first city in Hungary to roll out a bike-sharing system, according to Szeged Cafe.

The system, now getting its final touches, would naturally be much smaller than the one planned for Budapest, Bubi. It would comprise 70-80 bikes at up to 12 docking points spread around the centre of the city. Another 20-30 bikes would be kept at a central depot for longer-term rentals up to several days.

The new service is the creation of a private company, Szeged-based Sund Magyarorszag Kft, which developed it with the help of a HUF 45 million EU grant through the Southern Great Plain Regional Operating Programme. The system was first scheduled to open on September 30, but stumbling blocks forced a postponement until March.

As with similar systems, the bikes would be for short-term rentals for short-distance trips around a circumscribed central area. After a free registration, users would pay HUF 200 per hour or HUF 800 per day. Users who check out bikes more than four times in one day would have their daily bill capped at HUF 800.

According to original plans, the system is targeted at tourists and other visitors and is not meant to compete with Szeged's public transport system.

The system would be fully automated, with registration done online and checkouts by mobile phone. Users would get a four-digit PIN code to be typed into the station console in order to release a bike.

The bikes themselves have solid rubber tires, making them puncture proof and also less attractive to thieves. Another security feature is GMS tracking. Users who stray outside the central operating zone would receive automated SMS warnings. Messages would continue to be sent and if not heeded, a service security officer would be dispatched to search for the bike.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Price of Procrastination

Hungary could lose EUR 640 million in EU funds for the metro 4 project if it continues to drag its feet on the congestion charge, according to a post this week on

According to the report, the Budapest Transport Centre (BKK) now states that it will be impossible to implement the charge until "the city's public transport network is completed". This would happen in 2015, if all goes as planned, and then the congestion charge could be implemented along with a system of peripheral park and rides, in 2016.

But how would the PT network be "completed"?? Isn't public transport a continual work in progress? A completion date strikes me as a phony benchmark, the latest pulled from bottomless barrel of excuses to delay the congestion charge.

Of course, the city leadership is terrified of alienating car owners and is desperate to find another way to tax themselves out of the metro 4 quagmire. A new "utilities tax" will hit landowners whose properties are crisscrossed by water and sewage mains and other infrastructure. Sounds like a soak-the-rich strategy, although everyone will feel the pain, from real estate tycoons on down to shop owners and flat tenants.

With congestion charging, at least you'd have a choice: drive downtown and pay or bike or walk and go for free. Or car pool and split the fee with your colleagues.

Or take BKV, which as of January 1 costs HUF 350 per ticket. That gets expensive, particularly if you have journeys that require a change of lines. Every change costs another HUF 350. This is the subject of another rant. But ... why should a public transport user have to pay an extortionate fee to use an environmentally friendly, space efficient means of travel while car users go for free over the same public roads?