Many of you will recognize the feeling: you come back to Kyiv from abroad and you immediately hate our public transit.
The first object of criticism is, of course, the private mini-bus, or “marshrutka.” They are bottomless pits of blackened cash that can only be accessed by a person with healthy arms and legs, preferably without bags or children, and which you can wait for ’til the cows come home, because there is no schedule, and the angry driver will say, as usual, “What do you want from me, woman?”
If the metro is more-less bearable, buses, trolleybuses and trams offer questionable convenience. There is a monthly pass, but there is no pass for a certain number of rides. How come? Why do people have to buy a ticket if they use this transport 15 times a month? That does not happen abroad. There, single ride tickets are only purchased by tourists or visitors from other cities. Everyone else uses some kind of a pass, which really saves money. Compare:
Poland: a 40-minute ride costs 3.80 zł., a monthly pass – 110 zł. (which makes it 1.83 zł. if you use the transport twice a day). One złoty is about 0.23 Euro.
Sweden: a 24-hour ticket costs SEK 125 (62 per ride if you take the transport twice), a 7-day pass costs SEK 235 (23 per ride), a monthly pass – 860 SEK (14 per ride). 1 SEK is about 0.1 EUR.
The Netherlands: there is a unified ticket for the GVB company – the operator of the metro, tram, bus and ferry in Amsterdam and the suburbs. When somebody gets on this or that transport, the card is charged EUR 0.9, and then EUR 0.155 for every kilometer of the ride. It is necessary to scan the card while entering and exiting the transport, since that is how the cost is calculated.
Also, check out the prices for various tickets in Palma de Mallorca. A single ticket costs EUR 1.5, and a member of a big family with a pass can pay EUR 0.3.
The prices are high, but they are reasonable payment for comfortable ride in a transport where there is always a place to sit, where a person in a wheelchair can get on without a problem, with AC, with specific stops, where you do not have to ask the driver “Could you tell me where this and this stop is?”, hope he won’t forget and ask him again every five minutes just to make sure. Where you are not stuck in a traffic jam, because the bus uses special public transit lanes which no cars can use. Most importantly, where drivers behave in a dignified way. Here he is, in a white shirt, very businesslike. He knows he is on an important mission – he is driving a bus. Here is true efficiency and accountability of public transit.
We truly need a public transit reform. We don’t need just to have the prices increased to UAH 8 without any improvements, like now. Okay, now there are passes for 5, 7 and 15 days in the metro. But the metro will keep losing money, since it is not the metro itself that receives revenue from advertising. As for trams, trolleybuses and buses, just like they were stuck in traffic when they cost UAH 4, they are still stuck now at 8. Cars keep blocking tram movement just like before. People in marshrutkas still lie on each other, they just pay more for it now.
What do we need to improve public transit? Money and political will. If we cannot affect the funding as citizens, we can absolutely influence the political will. To do it, we need to have the transport issue in the spotlight at all times. The problems that eventually get resolved are exactly the ones that are very present in public space and worry a lot of people.
Here are the steps that will bring the transport problem into the spotlight:
1. Since elections are coming, we should make use of politicians’ desire to increase their ratings and snowball them with requests and suggestions. Unfortunately, we don’t have a convenient system like Britain does where, just by entering the zip code, we you can find out your representatives, their contact information and how they vote. We have a system where you can find out information about local council members. As for MPs, you first need to find out your electoral constituency, and then look for the MP’s information on the Verkhovna Rada website. If you write a request and ask your friends and neighbors to do the same, the chances that the politician will pay attention will grow significantly.
2. When you encounter unpleasant situations connected with transport (waiting for a mashrutka for an hour, the driver told an old man to leave, a tram was stuck because somebody parked their car on the rails) leave a complaint by calling 1551 (for Kyiv) or 1554 (for Ukraine). Do not put up with it. It is not normal when you cannot get from point A to point B properly using public transit.
3. A more complicated tip: follow the agenda of your city council, and come make suggestions when they review the transport issue. But do it rationally: fighting and throwing accusations is not productive.
4. Write a petition on your city council’s website with constructive vision that you offer to resolve the problem. But first check if a similar one has not been created yet. Advertise your petition on your social media to collect the necessary number of signatures.
5. Look for a civil society organization that works with transport problems and offer your help.
There is no guarantee that public transit in Ukraine will improve even if you take all those steps. At least not in the very near future. But if we don’t do anything and just complain or – worse yet – put up with it, that is not an option either. The more active people who do at least something there are, the more likely it is that the situation in Ukraine will gradually improve – and not just with public transit.