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Affordability of public transport in Northern Europe

Picodimars 16, 2020

The importance of public transport has become a hot topic in the whole world. Rising traffic congestion and air pollution are concerns of many cities, keeping authorities awake at night. This is why public transport gains more recognition — it seems like an obvious solution to the problem, and in numerous cities, officials try to encourage commuters to use collective transport. Luxembourg, for example, has recently launched the world’s first free nationwide public transport, not only for its residents but also the tourists. On a smaller scale, various other places, like Tallinn in Estonia or Olympia in the United States, have introduced free public transport for their residents.

What keeps people from using public transport then? Despite its many advantages, some cities struggle to make public transport fast, convenient, and affordable. The price of the daily commute can convince or discourage a citizen from taking the local bus. This is why Picodi Analysis Team decided to examine the prices of monthly passes in the biggest cities of the world and contrast them with average wages to check their affordability.

Prices in selected cities worldwide

Affordability of public transport in Stockholm and other major cities around the world

(Se informationsgrafiken på svenska)

The highest prices for a month of unlimited access to public transport were noted in London (€237), Dublin (€195), and New York (€116). However, when taking into account the average monthly wage, the tables have turned for New York: it ranked 33rd out of 39 cities. It means that an average New Yorker could buy a monthly pass for bus and underground with just 2.4 per cent of his net pay.

In Northern Europe, the highest price of public transport was noted in Reykjavík. The only mode of public transport offered in the capital of Iceland is a bus service called Strætó. A commuter would have to pay €94.97 for a monthly pass. With the average salary of €2,800 (386,253.54 ISK, according to numbeo.com, as of March 2020), bus pass makes 3.39 per cent of monthly net pay.

In Stockholm, although the ticket price is lower than in Reykjavík — €88 or 930kr for a monthly pass — residents would have to spend 3.6 per cent of their pay (25,787.91 SEK), which is a bit more than capital of Iceland. However, Stockholm has a more diversified offer: public transport network consists of underground, commuter trains, trams, buses and boats.

Residents of capital cities of Norway and Finland are in a better situation — they spend less than 3 per cent of their pay on the monthly commute (2.59 and 2.54 per cent respectively). Cost of monthly passes in these cities is considerably lower with prices around €76 in Oslo and €60 in Helsinki. Both cities offer buses, trams, metro, ferries and rail services.

The capital city of Denmark could not be included in the comparison because of its complex pricing system. Tickets for Copenhagen’s metro, bus and train services depend on number of crossed zones.

It is the residents of São Paulo who are the worst off: they would have to spend more than 15 per cent of their monthly pay to freely ride public transport.

On the other side are residents of Zürich and Prague, who can enjoy affordable public transport for less than 2 per cent of their pay (1.37 and 1.84 per cent respectively). But the real winners of the ranking are commuters in Tallinn and Luxembourg, who can ride all public transport for free.


The research was based on prices of single tickets and monthly passes collected from local public transport operators, as of March 2020. The average net wages in 39 cities considered in the international ranking come from numbeo.com. For the currency conversion, we used the average Google Finance rates for February 2020.

The ranking includes prices of single tickets and monthly passes that grant unlimited rides for all means of public transport within the city. In the single tickets comparison, the most advantageous price for the commuter was taken into consideration — purchased via mobile application or with the special commuter card (but excluding ticket booklets).

In cities where various means of transport are served by different operators (Bucharest), the price shown in the ranking is the sum of monthly passes for all means of transport.

The study excludes cities where one specific mode of public transport is served by various operators with very different pricing policies (Tokyo, Beijing, Jakarta, Bangkok, and others).

The full list of countries and operators included in the research can be found under the following link.


  • https://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/destinations/europe/articles/luxembourg-free-public-transport/
  • https://theconversation.com/traffic-congestion-reconsidered-111921
  • https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2016/oct/11/tallinn-experiment-estonia-public-transport-free-cities
  • https://www.commondreams.org/news/2020/01/09/move-olympia-washington-create-zero-fare-public-transit-called-beautiful-thing

Public Use

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About Picodi

Picodi is an international e-commerce platform which provides discount coupons for online stores. Founded in 2010 in Kraków, it currently operates in 44 countries and is listed in FT1000 ranking of Europe’s fastest-growing companies. In Sweden since 2018.

Picodi Analysis Department

The unit was established in 2017, and it analyses the market, consumer activities, prices of products and services, as well as wages.

  • Head of Department: Mikołaj Kasiej
  • Researchers: Katarzyna Kobyłka, Paweł Stolarczyk, Irina Egurtsova
  • Graphic Design: Daria Ponomareva