Public Bus No Longer Stops at Esja Mountain

Esja

Access to one of the Reykjavík capital area’s most popular hiking sites by public transit – Esja mountain – has been severely limited since May 22. The bus stop at the mountain’s base has been closed to Route 57, the main route from the capital area that stopped at the site. There are no concrete plans for the service to be reinstated, Strætó public transport service confirmed to Iceland Review.

While the Reykjavík capital area features many fantastic walking and hiking areas, few are easily accessible by public bus. Previously, Reykjavík residents could hop on Route 57 to reach Esja from Ártún bus terminal. The route runs 11 times per day on weekdays and 7-8 times per day on the weekends.

Last May, however, the Road and Coastal Administration, which operates public bus service outside the capital area, decided to close the bus stop at the base of the mountain to Route 57.

“The reason for the closure is that the buses often have difficulty turning around and re-entering the highway after they have driven up to the stop,” a notice on the Strætó website reads.

Those who hope to reach Esja by public transport can now only do so from the suburb of Mosfellsbær, where they must call in advance to order a special taxi service, available only three times a day. From Reykjavík, the entire trip would take around 1.5 hours (it is a 20-minute drive). The earliest possible arrival time is 3:00 PM.

The Road and Coastal Administration has not yet decided whether Route 57 will begin stopping at Esja once more this winter.

Fossvogur Bridge to Be Completed in 2024

Fossvogur bridge Borgarlína

The winning design of a new bridge that will connect Reykjavík and Kópavogur municipalities across the Fossvogur inlet has been revealed, RÚV reports. The bridge will be completed in 2024 and will not be open to private vehicles, rather will be exclusively dedicated to public transport vehicles, cyclists, and pedestrians. The winning design was completed by Icelandic company Efla Consulting Engineers in collaboration with UK-based BEAM Architects.

“The winning proposal provides for a bridge with a rapid cycling lane, for those who want to cross quickly, there are lanes for public transport and the Borgarlína rapid bus transit line in the middle, and on the other side there is a path for those who want to walk or cycle more slowly,” explained Bryndís Friðriksdóttir, regional manager of capital area projects at the Icelandic Road and Coastal Administration.

The bridge, named Alda (e. Wave) is part of an ambitious 15-year transport plan for the Reykjavík capital area that includes the development of a rapid bus transit line, called Borgarlína. Alda is the first major construction project associated with the new transit system. “It’s part of what we call the first phase of Borgarlína, which is the Borgarlína route that runs from Hamraborg to the city centre and connects Reykjavík University, the University of Iceland, and the National Hospital, and then onward from the city centre along Suðurlandsbraut up to Ártúnshöfði so it’s a big part of getting Borgarlína and the new bus system up and running,” Bryndís stated.

The full cost of the bridge is yet to be determined, but Bryndís says the next step will be to examine costs it in detail. It will be funded by the transport agreement between the state and capital area municipalities. The Borgarlína website shows a video simulation of the completed bridge. Read more about the Borgarlína project.

Strætó Implements New Payment System and Fare Changes

Taking public transportation in the Reykjavík capital area will be a little different as of today. Public bus service Strætó has officially implemented a new, contactless payment system called KLAPP. Older payment methods, including the Strætó app, paper tickets, and cash, will continue to be accepted for another year or so.

Three payment methods within KLAPP

KLAPP is similar to payment systems that have been implemented in public transportation systems around the world. It allows users to pay their fare via scanners placed on the buses. Upon boarding, commuters scan a code using the KLAPP card, app, or 10-fare paper pass to pay their fare. The app is available for download for both Apple and Android devices. More information about the Klapp ticketing system is available on the Strætó website.

New price structure introduced

Strætó introduced a new price structure today along with the new payment system. A single adult fare remains ISK 490 [$3.70; €3.26]. Fares for children are lowering: while buses were previously free for those 6 years of age and younger, they are now free for children up to 11 years of age. Annual passes for seniors and those who are 12-16 years of age will rise ISK 15,000 [$113; €100] per year. One-month passes for adults have been reduced from ISK 13,300 [$101; €88] to ISK 8,000 [$60; €53].

Mask Use Mandatory on Reykjavík Buses

straeto covid-19

All passengers and drivers on Reykjavík’s public bus system Strætó are required to wear face masks as of today. Mask use remains mandatory on Strætó’s long-distance bus service throughout the countryside. Children born in 2005 or later are exempted from this rule.

The mask requirement is in line with tightened COVID-19 restrictions which took effect across the country today. “Customers in the capital area and in the countryside who do not wear face masks will therefore not be allowed to use public transport,” a notice on Strætó’s website reads.

Buses are exempt from the newly-imposed gathering limit of 20, perhaps one reason why mandatory mask use has been implemented inside the vehicles. Customers are responsible for providing their own face masks and are reminded to avoid travelling by bus if they have flu symptoms.

Shopping Malls Emphasise Mask Use

Both Kringlan and Smáralind shopping malls are placing additional emphasis on mask use in their operations, Vísir reports. Kringlan administration has suggested all stores in the shopping mall institute a mandatory mask policy for staff. Smáralind authorities have also recommended the use of masks wherever possible.

Mask use is mandatory in Iceland for all services where one-metre distancing cannot be maintained, such as at hair salons and massage parlours. As of today, it is also mandatory for audience members in theatres.

Max of 30 People Allowed Aboard Buses

straeto covid-19

Starting on May 4, the Ministry of Health will waive the requirement that people maintain a distance of two meters between them when travelling on public buses. Instead, a maximum of 30 riders will be allowed in vehicles at one time.

Per an announcement on the Strætó website, passengers will continue to board buses through the centre or rear doors, the better to safeguard drivers. The front of the bus will remain cordoned off for the same reason. Bus fares should be paid via smartphone app or bus card, which passengers are requested to hold up and show the driver when boarding. Although contactless payment is preferred, passengers who must pay with cash or tickets are able to do so via a designated farebox. No transfer tickets will be issued during this time, so passengers who need to switch buses mid-journey should simply inform the driver that they will be transferring and pay on the last leg of their trip.

Starting May 4, frequency will increase on Route 1 buses. Buses will run every 15 minutes from 6:35 – 8:35 am and 3:12 – 5:12 pm. The two-meter rule will remain in effect on Route 1 buses and maximum capacity will be lower than on other routes, namely a maximum of 20 people will be allowed on board at any time.

Additional buses will be added to following routes at the following times, Monday – Friday:

  • Route 6 – 7:36 from Ártún towards Hlemmur
  • Route 3 – 7:21 from Mjódd towards Hlemmur
  • Route 3 – 7:51 from Mjódd towards Hlemmur
  • Route 12 – 07:07 from Breiðhöfði/Ártún towards Skeljanes
  • Route 12 – 07:31 from Hlemmur towards Mjódd
  • Route 12 – 07:56 from Mjódd towards Hlemmur
  • Route 15 – 07:01 from Flyðrugrandi towards Reykjavegur
  • Route 15 – 07:45 from Reykjavegur towards Ártún

In addition, extra buses will be on standby during the afternoon rush hour and will be sent out on routes as needed.

Passengers are encouraged to limit their communications with other passengers, regularly sanitize their hands, cough or sneeze into the crook of their arms, and, most importantly, not ride the bus if they are feeling ill.

See the full announcement, in English, on the Strætó website here.

Strætó Reduces Public Bus Service in Reykjavík

straeto covid-19

Reykjavík’s public bus service Strætó is temporarily reducing its services starting today. The decision is made due to a great decrease in the number of passengers as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

On weekdays, Strætó buses will operate according to a Saturday schedule. Extra trips will be added in the morning so the buses start operating at a similar time as on the regular weekday schedule. Service on Saturdays and Sundays will remain unchanged.

There are a few exceptions to this change: route 31 will run every 30 minutes before and after noon on weekdays. Routes 27 and 29 will operate according to their normal schedule. All service on routes  8, 16, 22, 33 and 34 is suspended.

Mondays-Fridays, route 15 will drive four scheduled trips from Reykjalundur towards Flyðrugrandi. Passengers travelling with route 15 towards Mosfellsbær who wish to stop at Reykjalundur can let the driver know and they will make the stop.

All night buses from Reykjavík city centre have been suspended until further notice.

Passengers using the public bus service are currently required to enter using the back doors of the bus and are encouraged to pay for their trip via bus cards or the Strætó app, as the driver and farebox are cordoned off in all buses. Passengers are also asked to maintain a distance of two metres between themselves and other passengers.

Strætó notes that the physical timetables at bus stops will not be changed, and asks passengers to consult timetables on Strætó’s homepage or in the Strætó app.

Contactless Payment Coming to City Buses

Public bus in Reykjavík

Strætó will be accepting bids for a new contactless payment method on city buses before the end of the summer, RÚV reports. The intention is to begin implementing a payment system that is more in line with those in neighbouring countries and it’s hoped that this will be introduced in early 2020.

Sales manager Markús Vilhjálmsson says the new system will allow people to scan a card or a QR code to pay their fare. Strætó also plans to make it possible for people to pay with contactless credit cards. This should make it easier for bus drivers to do their jobs and for passengers to buy tickets. Forged paper bus tickets have been a major problem for Strætó, says Markús, but the contactless system should eliminate that issue.

The Strætó smartphone app makes it possible for passengers to purchase tickets in-app and then activate them on buses, but they must have an internet connection to do this. There have been cases of riders complaining that they can’t connect to the on-bus wifi and in a few select cases, children have been prevented from boarding buses when they weren’t able to show a valid ticket on their phones. (Markús noted that it’s Strætó’s policy that children in particular should be given the benefit of the doubt in such cases, but there have been cases of drivers enforcing the rules too strictly.) However, about 40% of ticket purchases are made through the Strætó app, Markús concluded, which is a good indication that passengers are largely satisfied with it.

Bus Travel is Free in Reykjavík Today

Public bus in Reykjavík

Reykjavík’s public bus service Strætó is offering free trips on its buses today in an effort to reduce pollution. Riders can access a free day pass using the Strætó app (under the “My Tickets” tab). High levels of particulate pollution are expected in Reykjavík in the coming days.

“There is a big chance of air pollution exceeding health limits today,” reads a notice on Strætó’s website. Particulate pollution is often highest in Reykjavík during spring due to a combination of dry weather conditions and studded tires, among other factors. Strætó’s initiative is a pilot project intended to encourage Reykjavík residents to reduce pollution by leaving cars at home.

Jóhannes Svavar Rúnarsson, managing director of Strætó told RÚV it is undecided whether the initiative will be repeated. “It costs Strætó a considerable amount of money if it goes well, so we just have to evaluate it with our owners,” he stated. Jóhannes estimates today’s free trips could cost the company around ISK 3 million ($25,000/€22,500).

The City of Reykjavík aims to dust bind all major streets today and tomorrow to further reduce the likelihood of high pollution levels. Car owners are encouraged to swap out their studded tires as their use is banned after April 15.

Strikes Proceed Alongside Wage Negotiations

Hotel workers strike Reykjavík

Wage negotiation meetings between six unions and the Icelandic Confederation of Enterprise (SA) continued until 11.00pm yesterday, RÚV reports. Though talks continue this morning, scheduled bus driver and hotel worker strikes will proceed as planned.

Bus drivers on routes 12, 14, 15, 16, 17, 21, 24, 28, 35, and 36 parked their vehicles between 7.00-9.00am this morning and will do so again between 4.00-6.00pm this afternoon in a rush-hour strike that will continue throughout April – unless unions and SA reach an agreement. According to public transportation provider Strætó, the strikes will affect some 15,000 commuters, who will have to find other bus routes or opt for other modes of transport to reach their destination.

A three-day hotel workers’ and bus drivers’ strike will begin on Wednesday unless talks prove successful. VR and Efling Union members who work in these areas are also scheduled to strike April 9-11, 15-17, and 23-25, with a general strike beginning on May 1 which will stand until contracts are signed.

Wage negotiations have been ongoing since late last year. Efling CEO Viðar Þorsteinsson said talks were making progress, but refrained from making further comment.

Two-Day Hotel Worker and Bus Driver Strikes Called Off

trade union iceland

The planned strike of hotel workers and bus drivers who are members of the Efling and VR unions that was planned to begin at midnight on March 28 and end at 11:59 PM on March 29 has been called off, RÚV reports. While multiple short-term strikes are still planned to go forward in the next week, the cancellation of this two-day action does signal that some progress has finally been made in negotiations between six labour unions, including Efling and VR, and the Confederation of Icelandic Enterprise (SA), Iceland’s employer federation.

The decision to call off the strikes was made at a five-hour negotiation meeting between SA and the unions that was held on Wednesday afternoon, mere hours before the strike was supposed to go into effect. It was the sixteenth such negotiation meeting and had, in fact, been postponed for the last two days because union chairs said that uncertainty with WOW air’s situation would impact negotiations. SA had requested that the forthcoming strike action be postponed in light of the ongoing WOW air negotiations, but the unions rejected this request.

The strike was cancelled “…in light of a new basis for talks, which has now been presented on behalf of the employers’ association, SA,” wrote Efling in a statement on its website. The exact details of the “new basis” was not specified, but Efling congratulated its members on “the great work that has been put into the planning and execution of the strikes so far, which have now resulted in a limited but significant success.”

“Whether it succeeds or not, we’re going to try to make it work in the next days and over the weekend,” remarked Ragnar Þór Ingólfsson, the chair of VR.

Both Ragnar Þór and Efling chair Sólveig Anna Jónsdóttir noted that this cancellation does not signal the end of negotiations by any means—it’s simply a step in the right direction. “I must express my feeling that we wouldn’t have made it here except for the fact that the strike weapon is a sharp one and it stings,” said Sólveig Anna.

The next set of 24-hour strikes is scheduled for Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday next week. The city buses run by Kynnisferðir will also start their rush-hour strikes on Monday.