ST. PETERSBURG Public transport fares are set to jump Aug. 1 in a move authorities hope will raise funds to increase the salaries of public transport workers.
The cost of a ride on the city's trams, buses or trolleys will rise to four rubles ($0.14) from two rubles, while the cost of a metro trip will go up to five rubles ($0.18) from three rubles. The cost of a monthly all-transport pass will rise to 270 rubles (about $9.80) from 170.
The move comes just after a hike in public-transport fares in Moscow. There, bus, trolley and tram fares have increased to three rubles from two while metro fares rose to five rubles from four. Moscow officials blamed growing prices for vehicles, spare parts and petrol for the hike
In St. Petersburg, Alexei Gerashchenko of the city's Transport Committee said the decision came as a result of talks between city authorities and representatives of the transport trade union, who have long lobbied for a price hike to help fund pay raises.
Gerashchenko said the move was aimed mostly at preventing the exodus of municipal drivers from their current low-paid jobs. "With an average monthly salary of 2,500 rubles ($91), it's not difficult to imagine those hundreds of municipal drivers who have quit their positions in the recent months for much better-paid jobs at, for example, the fast growing sector of [private] mini-buses," he said.
He added that the monthly wages of some 2,000 drivers of municipal transport would be boosted to 3,000 rubles (about $110) in the course of the coming weeks.
"But neither an increase in fares nor fines for fare evaders will make [the city's public-transportation system] a profitable venture," Gerashchenko said. "More then half of the city's passengers did not, do not and will not pay the entire price of their journeys because they are entitled to one sort of discount or another." According to recent official data, about 2 million of St. Petersburg's 4.7 million residents are eligible for some kind of fare reduction or receive free rides.
Gerashchenko said that there are 44 categories of "privileged" residents including students, pensioners, policemen, transport workers and military cadets an amount that "renders any fare increase almost useless."
"The quality of transportation in the city will start to improve as soon as we begin to reduce the list of 'privileged' passengers," he said.
Vasily Gribanov, director of 32 Park, a company that operates seven mini-bus routes, said that following the public transport fare hike, mini-bus fares could see an immediate fare increase to 6-7 rubles per ride from the current 4-5 rubles.
"But a major hike in fares [for mini-buses] is certain to come some time in September, when gasoline prices are scheduled to jump some 30-40 percent," Gribanov said.