TBILISI, DFWatch – Salome (22) is a reporter for a Tbilisi-based online newspaper. Due to her job, she needs to visit different places in the capital at least five times a day. Her managers do not cover transportation fees for her, as the office is run on a tight budget and journalists have to cover the cost of bus or taxi unless if they go on trips outside of the capital.
Less than a week ago, Tbilisi City Hall establish new rules of payment for municipal transport in the capital, which caused concern for Salome and many of her friends, who lead an active life in the city.
Years ago, City Hall started the transition to a new system of payment using cards instead of cash. You can’t travel on subway if you don’t have a card, but it is still possible to use coins in buses or minibuses, but then you won’t be able to make use of the discounts for those who have a travel card.
The rules for ordinary citizens were the following: if you had a card with money on, you paid ordinary 50 tetris (USD 0.30) for your first journey by bus or metro. The next journey in the same day would cost 40 tetris, then 30 tetris and finally 20 tetris. After that, all other journeys would also cost 20 tetris within 24 hours.
But then the rules changed, so that if a person travels by bus or train, they pay 50 tetris and are allowed to travel next hour and a half for free, but the next trip after an hour and a half will cost again 50 tetris.
“I’m a journalists and there are plenty of places I need to go during the whole day, but even I don’t need to have two trips within an hour and a half. I don’t know about the others, but for me it’s now twice the price to pay as it was earlier,” Salome says.
She explains that if in the morning there is a briefing at some ministry, still she has to go a bit earlier to secure a good seat among the crowd of journalist, then the briefing lasts about 20-30 minutes; a trip back to the office, then she needs to write the story and have another trip to work on another topic.
“Newspaper and online journalists like me don’t have a high salary so as not to care about things like this. I’m not talking about journalists from the TV stations, who are even served by their own drivers.”
Tbilisi City Hall like several other government bodies a few months ago suggested a new system of communication with the government. A citizen can write a petition on their official website and gather a certain amount of supporters so that the petition will be fulfilled.
The idea about the new rules was published to a website for Tbilisi and it gathered the necessary 15 000 votes, but the text didn’t mention anything about abolishing already existing rules on decreasing prices.
This caused the concern of thousands of people, as there are complaints and tough discussions on social networks.
There are people, who say it is not a big deal for them, because they make two trips from home to work or university and back, which is not more than one lari. But the others say their expenses for travel is now at least one lari more than it was earlier.
City hall has discounts for student, pupils, socially vulnerable and refugees, who pay fixed price for each trip. The new rules haven’t changed the price for them. They can also travel for free for that hour and a half after the first journey.
A small survey on one of the popular forums asked users whether the new system of payment made it cheaper or more expensive for them to travel every day: 73 answered it is more expensive for them, 9 said it remained the same price, 15 said it is slightly more expensive, 8 say it is slightly cheaper, 14 say it is really cheaper.