Real Cost of Transport in European Capitals

To determine the real cost of transport in European capitals one should draw a parallel between the price of a single public transport ticket in 15 European capitals (except Zurich) and the average salaries in each one of these cities.

tram riga latvia
A contemporanean tram in Riga – Photo by Jan Fabian/Flickr

Around one year ago I came to know that the price of the public transportation in Riga would jump from 0.60 to 1.15 euros in ONE day (although I don’t remember if these were the actual values, it was something around that).

As I am not a resident of Riga, it doesn’t concern me much, but, also around that time I came to know that the company running the public transport system in Riga was running ads for its public claiming that “the transport in Riga is still so cheap” – “in Oslo, Stockholm or Any other Western European city it is so much higher”.

Once I knew about this specific fact I had a quite a strange feeling, knowing that most Latvian people have at least one relative abroad, and that they know how salaries in Norway or Britain are way higher than they are in Latvia, it was crystal clear to me, that this kind of statement would have no effect to whomever it would reach.

It was in fact quite insulting to think that people would have this point of view or agree, even if partially which such statement.

This phrase led me to create this index, a simple mathematical equation which creates a relation between the average salaries in the cities analyzed, and the price of a single ticket on their public transport system.

bus bucharest romania
A bus in Bucharest, Romania.

To find out what is the reality, all one needs is to find the average salary in Europe data available from wikipedia and the price of one single ticket ride in the same cities available from numbeo.

If you divide the average salary in each city by the price of one single ticket, you will have the number of tickets a person can buy with the average salary in his city / country. Therefore, the higher the number of tickets you can buy in your city with your average salary, brings the real price of the ticket in your economy, not just a nominal value.

So, let’s take a look at our first table, with salaries. You can see no surprise here. Switzerland has the highest average salary among all the countries on this research. All figures are net:

Country – CityAverage Salary
Austria – Vienna2 320
Bulgaria – Sofia324
Switzerland – Zurich5 130
Czech Republic – Prague725
Germany – Berlin2 315
Estonia – Tallinn832
Spain – Madrid1 679
Finland – Helsinki2 479
Hungary – Budapest511
Italy – Rome1 736
Lithuania – Vilnius496
Latvia – Riga379
Norway – Oslo3 850
Poland – Warsaw634
Romania – Bucharest345
Slovakia – Bratislava664

Now, we have a beautiful table with the rates for one single ticket in each of the capitals of each country (Zurich is not the official capital of Switzerland, but it’s the most important city).

As you can see below, in nominal values, Switzerland has the most expensive ticket, and Romania has the cheapest:

Country – CityOne Single Ticket Price
Austria – Vienna2.20
Bulgaria – Sofia0.51
Switzerland – Zurich3.97
Czech Republic – Prague0.89
Germany – Berlin2.70
Estonia – Tallinn1.10-1.60
Spain – Madrid1.50
Finland – Helsinki3
Hungary – Budapest1.12
Italy – Rome1.50
Lithuania – Vilnius1.00
Latvia – Riga1.15
Norway – Oslo3.14
Poland – Warsaw1.01
Romania – Bucharest0.33
Slovakia – Bratislava0.90

Now, the real cost, a result indicating how many tickets you can buy with the average salaries in each one of these cities:

Country – CityReal Cost of Transport Index
Austria – Vienna1054
Bulgaria – Sofia635
Switzerland – Zurich1292
Czech Republic – Prague815
Germany – Berlin857
Estonia – Tallinn756
Spain – Madrid1119
Finland – Helsinki826
Hungary – Budapest457
Italy – Rome1157
Lithuania – Vilnius496
Latvia – Riga329
Norway – Oslo1126
Poland – Warsaw627
Romania – Bucharest1045
Slovakia – Bratislava737

Cool facts about this study:

You can buy ONLY 329 tickets in Riga with your local average

salary, while you can buy more than one thousand in cities like Madrid, Oslo and Rome.

Budapest is the second worst performer on this list, but let’s remember how complex the transport network is in Budapest, with 3 metro lines, dozens of tram lines, and frequent buses.

In Prague (a city with an average figure on this index) you can ride with the public transport 2.5 times more than you can in Riga.

The other Baltic states are performing quite bad too, and if we take into account that in Tallinn, a ticket bought directly from the driver costs 1.60, it would be the only city capable of beating Riga. But the normal accessible fare is just 1.10.

I hope you are glad (and not shocked) to discover the real cost of transport in European capitals.

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