The Provision of Local Public Transport

Andżelika Mirska, University of Warsaw

Relevance of the Practice

The task related to the provision of local public transport is a particularly important, highly debated issue in Poland. The main responsibility in this respect lies with the gmina, but also with the powiat and the voivodeship (in the scope of supracommunal connections). Before 1989, a state-owned enterprise PKS (Motor Transport Company) conducted business in Poland. It was a monopolist on the market but maintained a very dense network of local connections of high frequency. Residents were used to the availability of public transport (aside from its quality). Due to the political transformation, PKS lost its monopoly and the responsibility for transport in Poland was fragmented. Different self-governments deal with this task with varying degrees of success. It should be borne in mind that efficient public transport ensures access to other public services (access to education, health care, culture), especially for children and the elderly. It also has an impact on the quality of the environment (pollution, traffic jams in cities).

Description of the Practice

Urban and rural gminas face other problems and challenges regarding the provision of local and regional transport.

Rural gminas are confronted with the problem of insufficient transport connections. The drastic reduction in public transport led to the implementation of management according to the NPM (New Public Management) model, i.e. privatization of public transport enterprises. Private entrepreneurs were eliminating unprofitable connections in rural areas. As a result, a phenomenon of transport exclusion of residents has occurred (and thus limited access to work, education, health care, culture, etc.). Residents of rural areas try to cope with this situation by purchasing cars (import of used, cheap cars). In some gminas there are more than 3,000 cars per 3,500 residents. This in turn poses the problem of air pollution and the utilization of old cars.

The NIK (Supreme Audit Office) report of 18 April 2016 shows that self-governments are not able to handle the statutory task of ensuring public transport.[1]

The scale of the problem with local transport is different in urban areas, agglomerations and metropolitan areas. The problem here is how to organize a common transport network across administrative boundaries.

Assessment of the Practice

The scale of the problem with local transport is different in urban areas, agglomerations and metropolitan areas. The problem here is how to organize a common transport network across administrative boundaries.

This problem can be solved by the cooperation of self-governments. Since 2016, the unions of gminapowiat may be established. Eight such unions have been formed, seven of which concern the common organization of public transport.

However, only 18 inter-communal unions out of 313 have public transport within the scope of their activity, of which 8 unions were established for one purpose only, i.e. public transport (the others are multi-purpose, e.g. environmental protection, sewerage, tourism, etc.)[2].

Therefore, the task of gmina self-government, which is to provide public transport, has various effects in the course of the operation of urban and rural self-governments. Rural self-governments encounter the problem of transport exclusion of residents (elimination of connections, lack of transport in general – lack of financial resources). Urban self-governments face the challenge of agglomeration and metropolitanization processes – the expectations of residents regarding common transport and fares valid beyond the administrative boundaries of gminas and powiats. When considering this task from a broader perspective, it may be treated as an activity intended to improve the mobility of residents. The domain of urban self‑governments is innovative activities, such as the city bicycle system or the rental of city electric cars.

Performing this task affects the financial situation of self-governments (report section 3), may lead to structural changes through the formation of unions of self-governments to provide common transport services or to the cooperation with private entities under PPPs (report section 4). In view of the crisis in that area, the Polish Central Government has recently been very active and announced a program of financial support for self-governments. To the disappointment of the gminas, the voivodeship self-government (report section 5) will be the administrator of the funds. In this respect, the self-government may appeal directly to the residents, e.g. local referendums in Kraków and Wrocław on the construction of the underground railway (report section 6).

References to Scientific and Non‐Scientific Publications

Legal Documents:

The Constitution of the Republic of Poland of 2 April 1997  <>

Scientific and Non-Scientific Publications:

Regulski J, ‘Local Government Reform in Poland: An Insider’s Story’ (Local Government and Public Service Reform Initiative, Budapest 2003) <>

Trutkowski C (ed), Realizacja usług publicznych w jednostkach samorządu terytorialnego – ograniczenia, możliwości, rekomendacje (Fundacja Rozwoju Demokracji Lokalnej 2016)

Wollmann H, Koprić I and Marcou G (eds), Public and Social Services in Europe: From Public and Municipal to Private Sector Provision (Palgrave Macmillan 2016)

Public Private Partnership Platform, <>

[1] Department of Infrastructure, ‘Funkcjonowanie regionalnego pasażerskiego transportu drogowego‘ (Najwyższa Izba Kontroli, 25 May 2016) <,10841,vp,13179.pdf> accessed 10 July 2019.

[2] ‘Zarejestruj, zmień statut lub wyrejestruj związek międzygminny, związek powiatów, związek powiatowo-gminny’ (Ministry of the Interior and Administration, 2 July 2019) <> accessed 10 July 2019.