Travel in Copenhagen

Public transport explained for computer scientists


Unless you bring a bicycle the easiest way to get around in Copenhagen is by bus and train. Going by car cannot be recommended due to parking restrictions around the FLoC'02 conference site. The added convenience of taxis is seldom worth the extra cost - unless, of course, you are late enough to risk missing your own talk.

Day buses and trains operate from about 05:00 to 01:00, with headways of 20 minutes or less most of the day for urban and suburban lines. Night buses (and night trains on the Malmö-airport-Copenhagen-Elsinore line) service only certain streets, generally operate once an hour, and require double fare.

Each bus line has a number, sometimes with a letter as suffix. The suffix letter is always redundant; for example, all buses on line 150 carry the letter S. The meanings of the suffixes are:
E - peak hour express, reduced stopping pattern.
N - night service, double fare.
P - local peak hour service.
S - all-day express, reduced stopping pattern.

S-train suburban lines each have a letter, or a letter and a plus sign. The plus sign is not redundant; for example, line H+ has a different stopping pattern from H. The plus-lines do not operate evenings and weekends. Trains other than S-trains have no line designations, but platform monitors list each further stop of the arriving train separately.

Timetable information

The on-line journey planner Rejseplanen knows all public buses and trains in the Copenhagen area. For the FLoC'02 conference site, type "Universitetsparken 5, 2100 København Ø, København". For the central station type "København H". For the airport, type "Københavns Lufthavn udenrigs". If you cannot type "ø", use "o" instead and select the correct spelling from the list box.

Bus and train fares - executive summary

(This is not the full story. See below for details. The prices quoted here were current in February 2002 and may have changed since.)

For most trips you need to make in connection with FLoC, you need a "2-zone ticket" which costs DKK 14 and can be bought from bus drivers and ticket machines on stations. Drivers and ticket machines generally make change but the machines only accept coins, and bus drivers may not have enough cash to change when paid in banknotes.

The 2-zone ticket is valid for unlimited transfers within an hour in the central part of Copenhagen (which includes all FLoC-relevant locations). Be sure to retain the ticket through the entire trip so you can present it to the roving ticket inspectors.

Most participants can save money by buying a 10-clip "blue card" for DKK 90. Stamp the card in the yellow card-stamping machines just inside the bus or at a station platform. Each stamp is worth the same as a 2-zone ticket. When transfering to a bus, present the card to the driver instead of stamping again. Cards are not sold by bus drivers but can be bought at ticket machines and ticket counters at stations.

The exception to these rules are trips to and from the airport. For these you need a "3-zone ticket" which costs DKK 21, or two simultaneous stamps on a blue card.

Bus and train fares - the gory details

(If you think this description is confusing, try reading the transit agency's English summary).

[Map with zone boundaries]

The Capital Region is divided into 95 numbered zones. Define a distance metric on zones by

      d(z,z) = 1
      d(z,z') = 1 + min { d(z,z'') | z'' adjacent to z' }

where two zones are adjacent if the intersection of their boundaries is nonempty (thus, zones 32 and 44 are adjacent but zones 2 and 4 are not).

Now, a "N-zone ticket" (with 2<=N<=6) bought in zone z is good for travel in all of the zones

      K(z,N) = { z' | d(z,z') <=N }

Note that the cardinality of K(z,N) is generally greater than N (unless N=2 and z=4), so the term "N-zone ticket" is somewhat inaccurate.

An N-zone ticket bought in a bus is made of N physical ticket units which cost DKK 7 each. A ticket for "all zones" is made of 7 ticket unit and so costs DKK 49.

Each stamp on a blue card is exactly equivalent to 2 ticket units, apart from being cheaper. The ticket units on a card can even be split between persons, so two people traveling from central Copenhagen to the airport (d(1,4)=3) can share three stamps on a blue card to get the three ticket units each they need. A person traveling alone can also make up his 3-zone ticket of one blue-card stamp and a single ticket unit (to buy a single ticket unit at a ticket machine, press the button labeled "tillægsbillet").

There also exist "yellow cards" where each stamp is worth 3 ticket units, and so forth up to the "grey card" with ten stamps of 7 ticket units each.

Transfers. The transfer period is 1 hour for 2<=N<=3, 1½ hour for 4<=N<=6, and 2 hours for all-zones tickets. You can stay on the bus/train after the transfer period but not make new transfers. Note the lack of symmetry: you cannot stay on a bus/train if it leaves the zones where your ticket is valid.

Night buses and trains. On night buses (any bus line with an "N" suffix) and trains (between about 01:00 and 05:00) you need 2N ticket units instead of N.