Cyprus public transport is in trouble

It’s been only a couple of years since I blogged about Limassol joining the rest of the world with a rebirth of its public transportation system.  And now Cyprus Mail reports that it’s on the edge of being dead and over. Again.

PUBLIC transport is faced with collapse, a top MP has said, as lawmakers discussed a bill to inject an additional €21 million into the system to keep the upgrade programme going.

The House Finance Committee heard that bus companies were losing between €200,000 and €300,000 a month while banks were no longer willing to provide more breathing space.

Oh, well.  At least they tried.

Bike sharing in Nicosia

Cyprus Mail reports that bicycle sharing schema was launched in Nicosia, Cyprus:

PEOPLE in Nicosia are now able to roam the city on bicycles at 27 docking stations spread across seven municipalities as part of the much anticipated bike sharing scheme.

The scheme was unveiled yesterday at a special ceremoney in Aglandjia attended by various officials, including Communications Minister Efthymios Flourentzos, and the participating mayors.

The new system is open now but not all of the 27 stations are operational yet. It will be another ten days before the system is fully up and running on November 7.

The scheme involves 315 bikes which people can borrow from any designated station and return to any other station of their choosing. A network of bike lanes, some of which are expected to be completed by the end of the year and others by 2012, connect the city’s universities and hopefully “rejuvenate our bodies” in the word of Aglandjia mayor Andreas Petrou.

I think these are great news.  Of course, at first people will look funny at this.  But slowly slowly the culture will change and more and more people will use bicycles to move around.  We’ve seen this happening before and we’ll see it happening again.

Back a few years ago, when roadworks began to construct a walk path and bicycle lane along the seaside road, I’ve heard many people joking about Cypriots being the laziest nation in the world, the nation that never walks or cycles.  Those who were not joking, often presented a number of other reasons of why that was a useless development.  One of the most frequently used reasons was, for example, weather.  People were saying that it was too hot in Cyprus to walk or cycle.

And what are we seeing now?  Lots of people walk and cycle, people of all kinds – young and old, Cypriots, locals of other nations, and tourists.  It’s true that on a hot day there are fewer people out, but overall, I think it is obvious that the walk path and bicycle lane are useful.

There is also a generic European trend towards healthier lifestyle and smaller environmental footprint.  We shouldn’t forget that too.  In the last few years, most European countries banned smoking in public places, increased the prices of nicotine and alcohol, promoted healthy way of life, including sports and other activities, better eating, and quitting bad habits.   As a result, many European nations look better.  Fewer people smoke.  And bicycles are a widely used mean of transportation.

Cyprus, even though often far behind other European countries, still moves in the same direction.  We’ve already seen a smoking ban. We are seeing a reincarnation of the public transportation system.  And, I think, adding bicycle sharing schemes and constructing more bicycle lanes are a good way to go.

Free WiFi to be introduced on Cyprus buses

Cyprus Updates shares the following:

Internet access will be available via wifi for free to passengers of Nicosia buses by next month. The service will start intiially on route 158 (Nisou – Pera Chorio) and then will be expanded to the rest of the routes. Furthermore, by 2012 buses will be equipped with Global Positioning System (GPS) which will allow tracking of their location and subsequently provide information to the passengers within the bus as well as at the bus stops.

I wish there was a confirmed authentic source for this rumor.  Even with that it would be difficult to believe.  This sounds more like Google experiment than Cyprus public transportation roadmap.  Great news if it will ever get implemented!

Limassol buses information

Finally, Limassol is joining a list of pretty much every city on this planet that has a system of public transportation!  Lots of new buses, new routes, new tickets, new passengers – all that is exciting.  I’ve been waiting for this and now I’m happy to see how it grows and improves.  From a myth of bus system, it turned into a real bus network.  It’s true that not everything is covered yet, and that most people still prefer to drive their own cars, but I see light in the end of the tunnel.  I’m full of hope.  And I say – just give it time.  And we’ll have an alternative to personal cars and expensive taxis.

I have tried the new bus system myself.  Together with my son Maxim we took a test ride to grandma’s and back.  The funny bit was when were heading back home, we had a choice of either going back by bus or getting a lift by my brother.  When presented with these options, Maxim chose a bus.  And I don’t see why not.  The buses are new and comfortable.  We already paid for a daily ticket.  There is practically no waiting time.  And it’s all exciting and new.

The only issue I noticed with the new system is that nobody knows which routes are there, where buses stop, and how often they go.  Except for route 30, which goes along the seaside from La Meridian Hotel to the New Port of Limassol and back.  Gladly, there is a website now that solves the problem with detailed information on all routes, bus stops, timetables, ticket prices, and more – . Not only the website is in both Greek and English, but it’s a nice showcase of how WordPress can be used for a non-blog.

On public transport in Cyprus

Often, when I talk to my friends abroad, I hear that we have it too good here, in Cyprus.  As one of the example, they say that everyone has a car.  And while I don’t disagree – the life in Cyprus is good indeed – I often find it hard to explain that a car here is more than just a convenience.  It’s a necessity.

I also understand why it is difficult to grasp the idea for those who’ve never been in Cyprus.  Many of them can’t imagine a city with no public transport at all.  Public transport is a norm pretty much everywhere you go.  But not in Cyprus.

Finally, I now have a link to send to those friends of mine, who find it difficult to believe me.  Cyprus Mail runs an article with some statistics.  These are Nicosia-based, but I don’t think Limassol or any other city on the island would be much different.

Nicosia also stood out with 84 per cent of respondents saying they never used public transport. Only a minority – four per cent – used public transport to commute in Nicosia with 91 per cent travelling by car or motorcycle. Just five per cent walked or cycled to work.

The future is expensive. Very expensive.

Again, news from Slashdot:

“The City Car, a design project under way at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is envisioned as a two-seater electric vehicle powered by lithium-ion batteries. It would weigh between 1,000 and 1,200 pounds and could collapse, then stack like a shopping cart with six to eight fitting into a typical parking space. It isn’t just a car, but is designed as a system of shared cars with kiosks at locations around a city or small community.”

Here is one of the ways I see it:

  • most families won’t be able to afford children (“two-seater electric vehicle”)
  • most families won’t be able to afford petrol powered cars (“powered by lithium-ion batterries”)
  • most families won’t be able to afford their own cars (“shared cars”)
  • most families won’t be able to afford parking spaces (“six to eight fitting into a typical parking space”)

I’m glad that science in general and MIT in particular are here to help us survive in the future.

P.S.: by the way, most families won’t be able to afford university education either, so MIT is giving out for free already – MIT OpenCourseWare.

P.P.S.: yes, I’m just kidding.  The stuff linked to from above is cool.