The public transportation system of Budapest is fairly extensive and dense, with many types of vehicles. There are four subway lines with the oldest being line 1, alternatively called Millennium Underground Railway, or colloquially the Small Subway opened in 1896 (the 1000th anniversary of the Magyars' arrival to the Carpathian basin), making it the oldest subway line on the continental Europe. On the surface numerous buses, trolleys, trams (with the world's most-used tram lines among themnote , boats, light rails, a cog-wheel railway and even a funicular provide transportation to the citizens and tourists.
The "Yellow Line", Metro Line 1 (officially called Millennium Underground Railway, colloquially Small Subway) is a short (4.4 km or 3 miles) underground railway, going between the heart of Pest (the eastern half of the city) and the Városligetnote , between Mexikói út and Vörösmarty tér. Its stations are preserved in their original late 19th century style.
The "Red Line", Metro Line 2 was the first metro line to connect Buda (the western half) and Pest. Its western terminal is the Déli Pályaudvar (Southern Train Terminalnote ), and its eastern terminal is the Örs Vezér Terenote where passengers may transfer to the light rails going to the northeastern suburbs of Budapest. Along its 10.3 km (6 miles) route, it touches the Széll Kálmán Square (formerly Moszkva (Moscow) Square, an important nexus of traffic), Kossuth Lajos Square (home of the Parliament), Deák Ferenc Square (another important nexus, terminal of the trams going to South Buda and an intersection of subways 1, 2 and 3), and the Keleti Pályaudvar (Eastern Train Terminalnote ), making it incredibly busy.The stations were recently renovated, and the vehicles are modern, making travel on this line pleasant.
The "Blue Line", Metro Line 3 is the longest subway line in Budapest. At 16.5 km (10 miles) it connects the northern and southern parts of Pest, from Újpest to Kőbánya-Kispest. Due to the generally decrepit state of the trains (they were prone to catching fire), the stations, and the rails, a very necessary renovation began in 2016, lasting at least until 2020. An extension both towards the North, and to the Budapest International Airport is also planned.This subway line also connects the Nyugati Pályaudvar (Western Train Terminalnote ) to the subway system.
The "Green Line", Metro Line 4 connects south Buda with central Pest. The line was stuck in Development Hell for a long time, to the point that "When Metro 4 is completed" was used as "When Pigs Fly" by Hungarians. The plans for its current path existed since 1996, but its idea was around since 1972. Finally opened in 2014, the modern (the trains are fully automatic) and expensive (costs more than the Large Hadron Collider by kilometer) subway line was already made obsolete due to demographic developments since 1996. The current 7.4 km (5 miles) route is only planned as the first phase, spanning from the Kelenföld Railway station (an important train station in South Buda) to the Keleti Pályaudvar. An expansion was planned from the inception of the line, but due to underwhelming passenger numbers and funding problems, its fate is unknown.
Line 5 (planned)
The planned "Purple Line", Metro 5 would connect the light rails coming from the Csepel Island to the light rails going to the North. Because of the financial situation, it's currently just a gleam in the city planners' eyes.As of July 2019, the plans are to have the suburban railway (HÉV) line 5 be called Metro Line 5 and rebuild the whole part of the line from Békásmegyer to the terminal at Batthány tér to be underground to avoid clogging up the street network.
Budapest has a large number of tram lines, colored characteristically yellow. The vehicles on these lines range from old cars from the Soviet era to modern Combino trams specifically designed for the city (to handle the tighter turns). Tram lines 4 and 6 (they are considered one line; the only difference is the last 2-3 stops on the southern end) are the most used tram line in Europe, and as such the trams are also amongst the longest at 54 meter (earning the nickname "Giant Caterpillar"). Another line worth mentioning is line 2, running along the Houses of Parliament and then the Pest bank of the Danube river, consistently featured among the most beautiful/picturesque tram lines in Europe.
Where trams can't go because of the elevation, the space requirements or simply the cost of building the rails, buses transport the passengers. Painted bluenote , the bus fleet of Budapest is also an impressive display of Schizo Tech displaying the whole range from old Hungarian-made Icarus buses (which are, ironically enough, prone to catching fire in the summer) to modern Volvos.
The most used lines are lines 7 and 7E, both going between Kelenföld (SW-Buda) and NE-Pest, despite M4 also servicing a large part of that route.
An interesting cross between a bus and a tram, trolleys are electrically-driven buses getting power from overhead wires using pantographs. In Budapest they are painted red. The newer models also contain a battery that can power them for short jaunts between areas without overhead wires. The trolley network in Budapest is not extensive, only covering the inner part of the Pest side.
The green-painted light rails, or HÉVsnote connect Budapest with a select few cities in the agglomeration (or, in case of the H7, Csepel), as well as reaching the metropolitan border of Budapest note , allowing the railways to connect to parts otherwise poorly integrated in the transport system. There are future plans to integrate them into the metro network.
The lines used to be named after their endstations but received numbers (following the four metro/subway lines) and are as follows:
- H5 from Batthány tér (also a stop on M2) to Szentendre in the northwest (metro border: Békásmegyer). As of July 2019, the plans are to have this line be called Metro Line 5 and rebuild the whole part of the line from Békásmegyer to the terminal at Batthány tér to be underground to avoid clogging up the street network.
- H6 from Közvágóhíd to Ráckeve in the far south (metro border: Milleniumtelep)
- H7 from Boráros tér (also a stop on M4) to Csepel in the south (as mentioned, this is the only one completely within the metropolitan area)
- H8 and H9 from Örs vezér tere (one of the endstations of M2) to Gödöllő (H8) or to Csömör (H9), both in the east (metro border: Cinkota)
As of 2012, there are a few boat lines in Budapest taking passengers along the Danube. Since they are fairly slow compared to other, more conventional public transportation, they are mostly used by tourists as a low-cost alternative to sightseeing boats.
The cogwheel tram of Budapest is a tram-line expressly designed to perform large climbs with the help of, you guessed it, a cogwheel. In Budapest this tram climbs the Széchenyi hill, giving lazier tourists (and downhill cyclists) an alternative to climbing up on foot.
The Sikló is a special railway going between the Buda Castle and the foot of the castle hill - practically straight, traversing a 50m difference in elevation on a 95m track. Part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site that is the Castle Hill, it was originally opened in 1870. The two cars of the Sikló are connected by a cable and are towed by the machine on top of the hill.
Libegő is an open-car aerial tramway (basically, a ski lift) providing passenger transport between two hills in Budapest. It has little practical use, mostly taken for the breathtaking view of the city it offers.
Works featuring the Budapest public transportation system prominently
- Kontroll: A Hungarian movie with an undefinable genre, it takes place in a fictionalized version of the Budapest subway system and shot in the real thing (as it was in 2003, that is, before the construction of M4 and the renovation of M2 and M3, thus with the old socialist stations and cars). Amusingly, the manager of the metro appears before the film to assure viewers that the real metro is much safer and nicer than it's portrayed in the film, which was probably a stipulation for filming there.