Youth activists who forced Yerevan Mayor Taron Markarian to reverse a sharp rise in public transport fees last month warned the municipality on Monday against enforcing a new parking system that would put a much heavier financial burden on car owners.
The Yerevan municipality last month contracted, on a supposedly competitive basis, a private firm to collect fees from parking spaces on busy streets across the Armenian capital. The company, Parking City Service, is currently installing surveillance cameras that will be used for charging drivers 100 drams (25 U.S. cents) per hour. The municipal authorities will receive 30 percent of its revenues.
Parking fees in Yerevan have until now been collected by individual attendants working for the municipality or obscure private firms. Drivers are typically required to pay a fixed fee of 100 drams. They will thus have to pay much more under the new electronic billing system which is due to come into force on September 1.
Many motorists are already alarmed by this prospect. Their concerns are shared by hundreds of mostly young civic activists that have been at loggerheads with the Mayor’s Office over the past month. Critics object to not only the higher parking charges but also the fact that most of them will go to the private operator. They claim that Parking City Service is controlled by senior municipality officials or their cronies.
Hundreds of activists gathered in a public park in downtown Yerevan on Sunday evening to discuss ways of challenging the controversial parking system. They agreed on the need to generate a mass boycott of the new rules through a campaign of street protests.
One of their leaders, Sevak Mamian, spoke on Monday of a new campaign of civil disobedience. “If the municipality gives whole road sections to a private firm, that will indirectly give motorists the right to park their cars anywhere they want. So drivers may well park in the middle of streets in protest,” Mamian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
The mainly non-partisan activists already urged commuters to defy a more than 50 surge in the cost of public transport late last month. Markarian bowed to the pressure after several days of angry protest s backed by dozens of Armenian celebrities.
The mayor seemed determined to go ahead with the new parking system on Monday. Meeting with senior members of his administration, he warned that park attendants will face a police crackdown if they continue collecting fees after September 1.