I’m an irregular user of public transportation. At most I get to use it three times a week, but average is probably twice. It’s not that I don’t like it as much as want to walk since I’m sitting most of the day. But that is beyond the point here. The point is that good public transportation is essential to the operation of any modern city. Tirana, as the capital, has definitively the best and most improved system of all the other cities in Albania. But that does not make it perfect. No, at best it just makes it functional and usable out of necessity!
By “necessity” I’m mostly hinting to the fact that it is very cost effective for all citizens. But that’s it.
I generally use the “Tirana e Re” bus line, which as far as I can tell, it’s the best bus line in terms of cleanliness, timeliness, and general operation. I use it also because it saves me on gas, time and the stress of finding a parking space near the Bloku area where I go most days for work. I’ve had to use one or two other lines in the past (Kombinat & Unaza) but generally I don’t since for longer distances I choose to use the car as parking is easier to find as you get farther from the center areas. But also because it takes to dam… long to get anywhere in time with those lines!
The ticket price debate
The urban transportation system of buses has been rented out by local municipalities to private operators who are obliged to maintain certain levels of operational cleanliness, timeliness and same ticket price (30 leke) for all interurban lines. The first two have always been debatable, in my perspective, but now the debate is over the price ticket as well.
The private operators and their unions have been bugging the local municipality of Tirana to raise the ticket price from 30 leke to 70 leke under a list of arguments which mostly revolve around the recently increased fuel price and government tariffs. The latest price they are striving for is the 50 leke mark.
The way the system is set up, any ticket price changes need to be approved by the central government (by a government decree), which in turn is upheld by the local government (municipalities) in their contractual agreements with private operators.
Long story short, the central government, which has hiked the price of fuel for tax purposes does not want to take its responsibilities and now is dumping the issue on the lap of the local government, which is fighting hard to keep the public happy by not raising anything, while also trying to keep the private operators happy otherwise they will escalate their displeasure into strikes which so far have twice brought public transportation to a stop, even for just 4 hours.
Quality of service vs. price hike
As I mentioned, the quality of service for public transportation has improved in the last two years, but there are still grave problems with its efficiency. While a price hike would be very detrimental to the thousands of low income citizens who are obliged to use it every day, the situation could not get worse.
Thus government subsidies or other such facilities are needed, as is tighter control on the way the service is provided by private operators, which in turn, are regularly reported by citizens to their poor service.
Personally, I will continue to use it and gladly pay the ticket price, even a slightly higher price if it is accompanied by a much improved service and efficiency. Let’s see what will happen.
Please add your comments below as I believe this affects us all 🙂