Bus and minibus fees in the Armenian capital have stood at 100 drams (25 U.S. cents) per ride for over two decades. Mayor Tigran Avinian’s office moved last week to replace them with a complex tariff system involving electronic payments for season tickets valid from one week to a year.
The proposed new system would lead to a sizable rise in the cost of public transport. In particular, commuters would have to pay 110,000 drams ($272) per annum and 25,000 drams per quarter for a limited number of bus, trolleybus or metro rides.
Municipality officials did not clarify the methodology used for calculating the new tariffs. They said only that higher bus fares are necessary for cutting losses incurred by Yerevan’s transport network and buying more buses needed by it.
Opposition members of the city council rejected this explanation, saying that public transport in Yerevan would become more expensive than in other ex-Soviet and even European cities. The pro-government mayor’s initiative also prompted strong criticism from some prominent public figures.
The city council was scheduled to discuss the proposed measure during an upcoming session. Deputy Mayor Suren Grigorian announced on Friday that Avinian has agreed to remove it from the session’s agenda. Grigorian said the new tariff system sought by the municipality will be discussed “more comprehensively” before being reintroduced in the council.
He did not say how long those discussions will take. The mayor’s office also did not give any time frames.
Artur Hovannisian, a senior member of the Armenian parliament representing the ruling Civil Contract party, told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service that the municipal authorities “will definitely take into account proposals and objections” voiced by critics.
Opposition leaders declared, meanwhile, that the authorities have bowed to opposition pressure. Hayk Marutian, a former mayor whose party has the second largest group in the city council, congratulated Yerevan residents on that in a video message posted on Facebook.
Marutian, who was controversially stripped his council seat on Wednesday, earlier pledged to launch a “campaign of civil disobedience” if the authorities go ahead with the unpopular measure.
The former television comedian was actively involved in such a campaign in 2013. It was triggered by the then municipal administration’s decision to raise the transport fees by 50 percent. The authorities scrapped the decision after scores of mostly young activists protested across Yerevan, urging commuters to defy the higher fares. Some of those activists are now senior members of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian’s party.