One for the Rebels: Transport fare increase suspended in wake of unified public reaction

One for the Rebels: Transport fare increase suspended in wake of unified public reaction


Last night Yerevan was celebrating the victory of “transport-democratic revolution”. In the central square of the Armenian capital young activists who had protested against the increase of public transport fare congratulated one another and marched the streets chanting “hagh-ta-nak” (victory) . For almost a week they had been encouraging people to “pay 100 drams” (the former rate), and last night finally came the happy news.

In his address Yerevan mayor Taron Margaryan instructed to create a commission of experts and interested individuals who would manage to develop all those mechanisms in a few months’ time, that would allow completing the municipal decree “on reconsideration of the intercity transportation fares in the city of Yerevan”; meanwhile, the mayor said, the practical application of the decree will be suspended.

The Facebook (FB) Armenian community was jubilating after the mayor’s announcement.

“This is not the defeat of mayor Taron Margaryan and the authorities, this is the Armenian citizens’ victory, this is the victory of the Republic of Armenia, this is the defeat of the slave ideology in us… Taron, Serzh, and others, are mere names of those holding their respective posts and those names will keep changing, the price of their defeat does not matter to me, the only lasting value is the Armenian citizen’s being a MASTER…” wrote Heritage party member David Sanasaryan on his FB wall.

The standoff against the 12-cent increase of bus rates effective of July 20 turned Yerevan into a united capital. Young activists persistently fought and spread the spirit through the mini-buses and buses from one end of the city to the other. People protested by not paying the new price of 150 drams (37 cents), walking rather than using transport, by carpooling – offering free rides on their private vehicles.

“All this brought the memories of Yerevan during 1988-89, when people were kind, united, lending a helping hand to one another. I was shocked when a young man offered me and few others a free ride from Mashtots avenue to Erebuni [from center to a suburb],” says Yerevan resident Hasmik Antonyan.

“People feel somehow related to one another, and when a ‘Jeep-owner picks up some complete strangers from a bus stop, those passengers do not think ‘how come he has a Brabus and I don’t?’. Because it is much more important to stay human than having a Brabus or being popular,” writes editor-in-chief of Aravot daily in an editorial. Transport Guide portal has been created within the “Free car, we will not pay 150 drams” drive.

One of the co-authors, web developer Grigor Yeghiazaryan told ArmeniaNow that everything started with a post on Facebeook. It was an announcement expressing willingness to help transport people. Other users started posting similar statuses.

“The website has been functioning for two days only and we have had 253 posts, 522 registered users, who might later make their own posts. The first day we had 12,000 visits, the second day 11,657. The bus rate remained the same, but the website will continue working, the Carpool concept has long existed in the world. I believe it will also work in Armenia, as Armenians are more outgoing, we trust one another, which is not typical of many other nations,” says Yeghiazaryan.

Mayor Margaryan in his address also reflected on the acts of protest and drives held by the youth, as well as to their calls and slogans.

“I rejoice over the warmth that can again be observed among Yerevan residents, in terms of their willingness to help and support one another. That warmth is a value we have to do our best to keep to ensure great and lasting achievements,” he said.

Human rights activist Artur Sakunts made a post on his FB page congratulating the “preliminary victory” of the citizens of Armenia, but stressing that it is, nonetheless, preliminary, because the decree was illegal to start with, for not having been publicized, hence its implementation, too, was illegal.