Saturday, 20 August 2016

Riga, Latvia

On 21st August 1991, the Republic of Latvia declared independence from the Soviet Union.

I visited the Latvian capital, Riga, in April 2016.  

Riga's transport system is provided by Rigas Satiksme.  A quarter of a century on from independence, the system still had evidence of the previous era.

This was most noticeable in the tram fleet, with many communist-era trams continuing to operate.



The buildings in the background above and below are former Zeppelin hangars, now used as Riga's central market.


The older trams were generally coupled together in pairs, although I did notice some operating as single units.

Although most of the trams carry the latest livery of blue and white, there were some still wearing an older version of the colour scheme, which included a lighter shade of blue.

There are some modern, low-floor trams too, although these appear to be in the minority.

"Laima", whose name is advertised on the clock tower, is Latvia's largest producer of chocolate.

Although many of the trams wore fleet livery, there were a number which carried advertising colour schemes.

As I have observed in a number of central and eastern European cities, trams may stop in the middle of the street to allow passengers to board and alight.

While the tram is stopped, other traffic must stop and wait.


However, some of the tram stops have an "island" platform in the street.

Other traffic can pass while trams are at the stop.

In addition to the regular tram lines, a heritage tram operates at weekends during the summer.  The heritage tram operates about every 90 minutes, from May to September.

It had not commenced for the 2016 season when I was in Riga, but this heritage tram stop was in situ.

A €2 fare applies on the heritage tram.  I will describe fares in more detail below.

Trolleybuses also operate through the streets of Riga.

In contrast to many of the trams, almost all the trolleybuses I saw were modern, low-floor vehicles.

The trolleybus fleet includes a number of articulated vehicles.  These have four sets of doors.


As well as articulated vehicles, there are also standard trolleybuses with three sets of doors.




Trolleybuses terminating opposite Riga's central railway station use auxiliary power, for a short distance where there are no overhead wires.


Although most of the trolleybuses I saw were carrying the latest blue and white livery, I did notice one or two in the previous two-tone blue and white.

I noticed a couple of older, high-floor trolleybuses.

This standard one appeared to be on training duties, I did not see it in passenger service.

A couple of articulated examples were in service however, although I only saw them during peak hours.

The tram, trolleybus and bus routes are numbered in their own sequences, which ignore each other.  Some numbers are used twice, such as the number 3 shown below.  Trolleybus route 3 bears no relation to the bus route carrying the same number.

There is also a tram route 3.  Several other numbers are used by all three modes, in each case describing unrelated services.

Like the trolleybuses, the bus fleet is a mix of articulated vehicles...

... and standard buses.


Some of the buses are extra long, with three axles...

... while there are also some smaller buses, with two sets of doors rather than three. 

These smaller buses carry a non-standard yellow colour scheme.


Most of the buses are low-floor with step-free access, although I did notice some which were higher-floor.




Minibuses also operate a number of routes within Riga.

Although wearing the same blue and white livery as Rigas Satiksme's vehicles, the minibuses are provided by a separate company, Rigas Mikroautobusu Satiksme (website only in Latvian or Russian - although timetable information is also available on the Rigas Satiksme website).

Some of the minibuses have a second set of doors at the rear...


...while others have just a single door at the front.

Some (but not all) of the minibus routes use a dedicated minibus terminal opposite the central railway station.

In many cities I have visited, links between the city centre and the main airport are provided by rail, metro or a dedicated bus or coach, often charging a premium fare.

In Riga, the airport link is provided by regular buses, at normal fares.

The airport is served by bus route 22...


... and by minibus 222.


At the time of writing, a single journey on Riga's public transport system costs €2, if buying a ticket on boarding.  As far as I can tell, the ticket does not permit interchange onto another route.

It is cheaper to buy tickets in advance, using Riga's e-talons smartcard system.  A single journey will then cost €1.15.  A one-hour ticket is available for €2.30, while a 24-hour ticket costs €5.  Three-day, five-day and monthly tickets are also available.  Although the single fare tickets can be used on the minibuses, it is not clear from the information avaialble whether the minibuses accept the one-hour or longer period tickets.

At certain busy stops, including the bus stop at the airport, self-service ticket machines enable passengers to buy tickets on e-talons smartcards.   

Bus links to points outside Riga are provided by a range of operators, using a variety of vehicle types.

Coaches are used on some services...



...while buses are used on others.



Some operators, including Red Bus, use minibuses.



And then there are these small yellow minibuses.


Timetables for these minibuses are shown on the Red Bus website.

Details of all the bus services heading out of Riga are available on the website.

Long-distance and international coach services link Riga with other towns and cities across the Baltic states and across Eastern and Central Europe.




The coaches operate from a coach station close to the central railway station and the central market.

The coach station is also the hub for some of the bus services heading out of Riga into the surrounding region.

The coach station website gives details of services which operate from it.

Sightseeing tour buses cater to visitors to Riga.

Two operators, Riga City Tour and Riga Sightseeing Tour operate hop-on, hop-off tours.  These start from the old town, outside the Museum of the Occupation of Latvia, watched over by a statue commemorating Latvian riflemen who served in Russia's Red Army.



A third operator of sightseeing tours is Riga Tour Bus.  I noted a single-deck coach on their tour of the Latvian capital.

Buses aren't the only way to enjoy a sightseeing tour of Riga.

Small boats provide tours from a pier in Bastejkalns, a park in the centre of Riga.  They navigate the city canal before heading out onto the Daugava river.

The boat tours are operated by Riga by Canal.

Finally, Riga is one of a growing number of cities with a public cycle hire scheme.  The scheme in the Latvian capital is operated by Sixt.