Is it possible to achieve both a simple and efficient public transport zone fare structure? Case study Oslo

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

place - europe, policy - fares, economics - pricing, economics - subsidy


Fare structure, Zone system, Efficiency, Simplification, Distribution, Political process


In many urban areas in the world zone systems are used for public transport fares. Such systems may approximately accord with economically efficient pricing. The reason is that zones can vary with size and location so that prices can approximately reflect the social marginal costs of journeys.

We believe, however, that many areas use an excessively large number of zones, which is not necessary and too complicated for both passengers and administrators.

In this paper we hope to be able to demonstrate that such a complicated zone systems can be substantially simplified while maintaining or even improving economic efficiency.

We describe how the zone fare structure in the Oslo region can be improved, but also implementation difficulties including distribution issues, etc. in the political process. The basis for this article is a study by Ruter AS, the public transport authority in the Oslo region (Oslo and Akershus), Norway, which proposed a new zone fare system. Full reports of this work, including a detailed description of the proposed system are found in Ruter AS (2008) and Jansson (2008).

A new system was implemented on 2 October 2011, which is fairly similar to the system proposed in the study from 2008. The new system includes 10 fare zones compared to 88 zones in the former system.


Permission to publish the abstract has been given by Elsevier, copyright remains with them.


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