While everyone else is busy blowing minds with everything from autonomous cars to self-driving trains, the Swedish public transport agency Västtrafik is challenging trends and promoting in its most recent 45-second ad one of the more traditional modes of city transport: the good old fashioned city bus.
In the ad, Västtrafik invites Swedish commuters to ditch their cars and taxis for just two weeks and take the city bus for free to see what a great an alternative it is to private cars, promoting it as an option that promises to drastically reduce road traffic. The ad clarifies that many of the tech-features advertised by trending car companies, like electrified propulsion, have long existed in public transportation.
However, the ad is not meant to compete against high-tech emission-free vehicles. “We welcome, of course, safer and more environmentally friendly cars,” says Lars Backström, CEO of Västtrafik. “However, more people alone in their cars — regardless of whether they’re self-driven or not — does not belong to the future. Not having to drive yourself in shared vehicles, on the other hand, definitely does. Something our customers have been enjoying for over a hundred years.”
Passenger cars in Sweden increased by 2.1% in 2016, compared with the same period in 2015, putting around 4.8 million cars on the road. But before even that, in 2013, locals argued that Stockholm’s rush hours are worse than those of many cities notorious for their traffic, comparing it to London, Los Angeles or even San Francisco, to name a few. Traffic is increasing in the Swedish capital at the rate of 2 to 3% per year.
However, Stockholm does not top the list of the world’s most ill-famed traffic. The Russian capital, Moscow, was ranked the most congested city in the world by overall congestion level, but it has recently fallen bellow Los Angeles, which is now champion of the most congested cities on the planet.
Yuri Luzhkov, the mayor of Moscow from 1992 to 2010, made the traffic problem his top priority to solve during his time in office. Under his leadership, municipalities built new highways and bridges but were unable to keep pace with the surge of new cars.
“The wise move would have been to invest in public transportation, to build up the city’s justly famous but sparse metro network and bring back the trams,” Russian-American novelist Keith Gessen wrote in The New Yorker in 2010.
Mixing public transportation with technology, Mercedes introduced the self-driving bus in 2016, moving at 20 kilometers (12.4 miles) per hour in the Netherlands, marking a milestone for self-driving mass transit technology.