Local night buses a mess, especially on holidays

An amateur film shown on the Internet has touched off a huge discussion on Krakow’s public night transport – with hope of improvements coming soon. The turmoil started when four supporters of public transport – Tomasz Tuleja, Pawel Paruch, Rafal Terkalski and Tomasz Bielecki – made a film showing incredible crowds aboard night buses during St. Andrew’s evening (Nov. 29), a popular party time in Krakow. The four circulated the movie among their friends, but soon its spreading popularity astonished them.

The four have started a web site, www.nocne-krakow.pl, (currently being translated also into English) on which they illustrate the alleged incompetence of Krakow’s officials who are responsible for organizing public transport. The four also present their own, detailed proposal for improving public transportation at night.

The proposal assumes that eight night bus lines from distant parts of the city would intersect at some point in the center, allowing passengers to transfer buses easily. The proposal also includes changes in fares to facilitate transfers.

When the daily newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza wrote about the film, Krakow officials first denied that a problem existed. Wieslaw Starowicz, vice mayor of Krakow, said that the night transportation system worked fine and that no complaints from passengers had been heard. Shortly afterwards, the Road and Transport Board that organizes public transport in the city presented its own film on night transport. Curiously enough, the passengers in this film also called for changes, although less drastic ones. The situation has infuriated both Krakowians and visitors.

“For me this whole night transport thing is rubbish,” writes “kwat” on www.forum.gazeta.pl. “They promote nightlife of this city, clubbing and they don’t provide appropriate access back and forth. It’s a disgrace for all Europe!”

The issue then intensified. The project and proposals of “‘nocni” (“the nocturnals”), as the four have called themselves, were both praised and criticized by Krakowians.

Finally Krakow’s officials decided to meet the four authors of the transport project and to discuss it. Having become acquainted with “the nocturnals,” Vice Mayor Starowicz promised to promote it in front of the Road and Transport Board and to introduce some changes on Krakow’s streets yet this month.

The four men also met with the board members themselves. However, the city continued to deny the project’s assumptions about night transport, no compromise was worked out and then the vice mayor withdrew his support for the “nocturnals.”

Jan Tajster, director of the Road and Transport Board, argued that changing the network of night buses would cause confusion among passengers, that there’s no place for a transfer intersection in the center of the city due to the noise and lack of space and that there’s no guarantee that the project would ever be successful.

“I think that arranging a changing point in the city center is not a very big technical issue,” said Tomasz Bielecki, one of the “nocturnals.” “It’s just that if the director of the board says that there won’t be any changing point, there won’t be any. The board is obviously intending to carry out their own projects, and not those that come from the outside. I think they’re afraid of their position.”

“I think that if the board decided to improve night transport in Krakow, people would start using it instead of taxis,” says Rafal Terkalski, another “nocturnal.” “The need for more frequent night transport is proven by the lines of taxis that we’ve seen driving up to the stops at Sienna or Dominikanska Sts. and driving off right away, full of passengers.”

“People prefer taxis for three reasons,” writes “willow80” on www.forum.gazeta.pl. “If you share the bill, the taxi is cheaper than a couple of bus rides. You’d have to carry a timetable to know where and when the bus runs; it’s so unclear. And the taxi is safer, but this could be solved by monitoring.”

Some hope for improving the transit problem arose recently after Gazeta Wyborcza published an exclusive article in which transport board members acknowledged a night problem, said they were working on it and also said they had the necessary money for improvements.

“It’s not that we’re the ‘bad officials, not wanting to do anything,” said Wit Nirski, spokesman for the transport board. “We’re also interested in solving the problem, but not using revolutionary methods, rather by introducing necessary changes. The ideas introduced by these gentlemen will be taken into account.”

In reply, the “nocturnals” commented: “It seems that the problem turned out to be not the money or anything but the people, their approach and attitude.” Whatever the case, the nocturnals and Krakowians now anticipate positive changes in night transport in Krakow.

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