The Yerevan mayor’s office revealed on Friday that it has asked the Armenian government to borrow at least $100 million for a complete overhaul of the city’s deteriorating system of public transport.
Ever since the mid-1990s, the system has been dominated by minibuses belonging to private companies. Few of them have invested in their fleet of aging vehicles in the past decade. The minibuses as well as a smaller number of buses provided by the municipality have become even more overcrowded as a result.
A British transport consultancy, WYG, was contracted by Yerevan’s former municipal administration in 2016 to propose a detailed plan to revamp the transport network. Then Mayor Taron Markarian essentially accepted the proposals in 2017, pledging to replace the battered minibuses with new and larger buses by the end of 2018.
Markarian was forced to resign last summer following the “velvet revolution” which brought down Armenia’s former government. His successor, Hayk Marutian, said after taking office in October that the city’s long-suffering commuters will have to wait for at least two years. He told WYG to conduct further research on the volume of passenger traffic and bus fares that would have to be set in the Armenian capital.
Marutian’s first deputy, Hrachya Sargsian, did not mention WYG proposals when he answered questions from opposition members of the city council concerned about Yerevan’s lingering transport woes. He told them that the municipality needs more than $100 million to buy 820 modern buses.
Sargsian said it has proposed that the government raise the money from external sources. He said that one-fifth of the required funding could come in the form of grants provided by foreign donors.
Sargsian insisted that the new transport network would not only recoup these investments but also operate at a profit. The municipality would need between two and three years to create such a network, he said.
Hripsime Arakelian, a council member representing the opposition Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK), was unconvinced by this plan. She argued that it would add to the country’s increased debt burden.
Tehmina Vartanian, a councilor representing the opposition Luys bloc, echoed that concern. She accused the municipality of having done little to solve one of the city’s most serious problems.