Looking Back at 2016 in Bulgaria: Developments in Sofia’s Public Transport

Written by on December 6, 2016 in Bulgaria, Latest, Sofia - 2 Comments

During the last weeks of the year 2016, public transport in Sofia was still a huge mess, and it will be for years to come. But improvements have been made, a major one and smaller ones.

Buses: On lines no. 213, 413 and 72, things have improved to some extent. New buses, among them Chinese ones and M.A.N. vehicles with low emissions, were put in service. These buses will contribute to a slight improvement of the air we breathe in Sofia. The problem: This should be happening a lot more and a lot faster, in this most polluted capital in Europe. More new buses should be purchased, more bus lanes should be built and their use enforced by non-corrupt officers.

Trams: The tram service continues to be catastrophic. On line 7, which is supposed to be modern and fast by now, the city is still damaging their expensive equipment and shaking passengers like a Daiquiri, with decaying, shaky tracks on several stretches. On lines 22 and 23, they are using some of the oldest, dirtiest and slowest trams ever, on the most shaky tracks ever. A few refurbushed trams (the red ones) were added to line no. 22, which is a small stap for both man and mankind.

Metro: The construction of the third Metro line, which commenced this year, is the best news item on public transport in Sofia in a long time. The Metro (lines 1 and 2) is the one public transport service which works properly, while offering comfort and a certain speed, without a lot of noise, or terrible pollution. Where are lines no. 4 and 5?

Metro extensions completed this year on existing lines, to Sofia Airport and the Business Park, have improved things a lot in certain areas, especially on Boulvard Malinov and Tsarigradsko Chaussee. This is definitely the way to go.

The line 3 construction itself has led to, and is still causing, a terrible additional mess in many parts of the city, including Boulevard Czar Boris III, Boulevard Bulgaria, as well as the intersection of Boulevards Praga and Pencho Slavejkov, and it has led to the closure of Boulevard Patriarch Ephtimi. All of this is very annoying in a city which was terribly congested even before the construction started, but it is a good and necessary price to pay. It will take two more years until Metro line no. 3 is operational. It will be worth the wait.

Tickets: The ticketing system is ineffective, old-fashioned and not working properly. In 2016, the fare was increased to 1.60 Leva. An estimated half of the passengers on trams do not purchase tickets. Once inspectors board the tram, they unboard it. Many drivers of trams and busses do not have tickets to sell, meaning the operator is losing money it does not have.

Summary: All in all, the public transport system in Sofia deserves the adjective poor. But some improvement is obviously on its way.

By Imanuel Marcus

Photo by Imanuel Marcus

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