Bus Fuss: Riders rebel against increase in public transport fares

Bus Fuss: Riders rebel against increase in public transport fares

Photolure

For the past few days flyers have been circulated in Yerevan streets and public transport, expressing the discontent and protest of the residents of the Armenian capital against the raised public transport fares with calls: “We will not pay 50 drams”, “Do not let oligarchs gain super-profit at your expense”, “Drivers, join the free citizens of Armenia”.

Effective of last Saturday the fares for minibuses, buses and trolleybuses have gone up from 100 drams (25 cents) to150 drams (36 cents). The municipal government believes that it was a necessary step and claims its importance for future improvements and the further development of public transport. Meanwhile many among the residents refuse to pay the new fare as a sign of protest, hoping that the mayor would reconsider his decision.

Days have passed since the “bus fare 150 drams” announcement stickers appeared in public transport, but many passengers still pay the former 100 drams. Some have joined popular actor Hayk Marutyan’s ‘protest’, who has been offering free rides to people, so that they do not pay the additional 50 drams (12.5 cents).

The driver of one of the #20 buses running Avan-Center route, told ArmeniaNow after taking another 100-dram fare from a passenger, that he shares the public sentiment and people’s anger.

“People are doing the right thing by not paying. I can relate to them, because seven members of my family use public transport, but our situation now is the most difficult: our daily payment target has been increased by 50 percent, yesterday I failed to meet it, and now have a debt,” a driver, who refused to introduce himself, said showing his debt-list. Not all drivers of public transport object to the raised fare, however. A video has been posted in the internet, where the driver of a bus #34 tries to hit one of the protesting activists with an iron bar.

Former president of the Central Bank of Armenia Bagrat Asatryan told the press on Monday that this price hike is an economic crisis.

“Route owners are only interested in not losing their super-profit, and the municipality calculations grounding the increase of fares are a mere mockery, holding all of us up to ridicule,” says Asatryan.

Leader of Sociometer sociological center Aharon Adibekyan says the issue today is not the expensive transport fare, but low salaries, and 65 percent of the population is affected by this decision of the city hall.

According to the sociologist, 45 percent of Yerevan residents use public mini-buses, 12 percent have their personal cars, 12.5 percent use taxi services, 8 percent use the subway, 2 percent the trolleybus, and 1 percent has employer-provided cars.

“The prices should keep growing, because the cost of life keeps getting higher. If we purchase oil, natural gas, petrol at international prices, then the local prices have to be the same as international, too, there is no other way,” says Adibekyan, adding that City Hall has to simply introduce a flexible pricing policy, as it is done in all civilized cities of the world, and have morning, daytime and night fares.