Alexei Kostin thinks Penza city commute fare increase necessary
Penza, 14 May 2015. PenzaNews. The deputy minister, head of business development department of the regional Ministry of Industry, member of the regional committee of the Communist Party Alexei Kostin said he supports his own party, demanding the city authorities to actually solve the transportation problems in the regional center and improve the quality of transport, but considers it necessary and inevitable to rise the fare in the near future.
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“It is clear that rates are rising, and fuel is expensive, and the cost of bus maintenance increases, so transportation costs also increase. The question is who will pay: either the passengers in full, or the city will provide subsidies. At the moment, we all know the state of the city budget: it cannot afford to subsidize the public commute,” Alexei Kostin commented for PenzaNews agency on Thursday, May 14.
He reminded that the Penza public commute market is dominated by marshrutkas (shuttle buses).
“If four shuttle buses transport the same number of people as a single large bus, the per person cost is much higher, because there are four drivers, and here only one. [...] This immediately puts pressure to raise the costs, so the issues of further fare increase, I believe, should be connected with a concept of the development of the city transportation,” the speaker said.
According to him, the big cities have established a system where the city center is serviced by large buses, and its outskirts – by marshrutkas.
“This is the de facto rule in all major cities, be it Kazan or Moscow. This is the current practice. This should be implemented [in Penza], and this is an urgent task for the city authorities. And further fare growth should simply be connected [...] to reorganization of the city’s public commute market. It is a question of the efficiency of the city government. Either the government solves this problem and finally regulates the transportation market situation, or it does not, and we will be forced to be blackmailing people: ‘Let’s raise some more.’ In this case, the citizens will regularly encounter the fare increase necessity,” the deputy minister said.
However, he expressed confidence that the dominant role in the market of Penza passenger transportation should belong to the municipal transport.
“First of all, the electric-powered transport: it is environmentally friendly and more cost-effective,” Alexei Kostin stressed.
According to him, the fare can be preserved only if the city authorities find the funds to subsidize transportation: for example, through increased collection of fees and taxes.
“One of such tax holes is [undercover] property renting. If the city authorities take it under control, it will increase tax revenues in the city budget, which allows public transportation subsidizing. And then the fare may be left as it is. It is the natural law of money conservation: if it grows somewhere, it should abate somewhere,” the agency interlocutor explained.
“Fare should be increased, but it is necessary to set a number of conditions before the administration: ‘You raise the rates, but be sure to eliminate the chaos in the transportation field, take the necessary steps within a year.’ And there should be people personally responsible for it, like a ‘vice-mayor on transportation issues.’ And the person must be responsible with his position: either they solve the problem and reduce the share of shuttle buses in the market, or the buses are counted a year later and they automatically leave the post. This is how the question should be settled. No hard feelings. If the problem is solved, the person stays. If not, they are free to go. It is only fair,” he added.
Answering the PenzaNews question on whether in the current difficult economic situation, the Communists’ protest against fare increase scheduled near the Penza administration hall on Friday, May 15, is a populist action, Alexei Kostin said that the activities of any party aim to gain popularity.
“By and large, any party is populist, be it the Communist Party or the United Russia, because a party lobbies the interests of the group of people who voted for it. Therefore, any decision can be called populist. The question is why they [the communists] are defending it? Because – as I said before – so far the rate increase is proposed without reforming the field of passenger transportation. That is, people will pay more [after the fare increase], but the service quality will remain the same – they are protesting against this,” the member of the Communist Party regional committee specified.
In addition, he expressed the opinion that if “the Communist revolution happened tomorrow with them in power as of that day, it would be them who would have to raise this rate.”
“Otherwise, the city will face the problem that people do not get to work [as the buses will refuse to provide services]. Not everyone has private transport. And even if everyone had it, and they used it at once, the city would be a huge traffic jam. The economy would fall,” Alexei Kostin described the situation.
He also said that tomorrow, he is not going to protest with his party.
“I will be at work, not able to leave. But I largely agree,” Alexei Kostin said.
In conclusion, he surmised that if the Penza picket on May 15 against the fare increase gathers a lot of people, this may “finally spur [the local authorities] to reform the public transport for the benefit of the city population majority.”