A dilemma in Tirana: to use the bus or go on foot?

One of the daily problems of the capital is heavy traffic, gridlock in almost every hour. If public transport would work according to what is stated in the contract between the city bus service companies and the Municipality of Tirana, or the public statements of the leaders of local government, perhaps more people would prefer not to use their personal cars.

However, commuting with public transport is a challenge in itself, especially in the summer and winter season. Summer is behind us, with its problems in the use of public transport by the citizens of Tirana, but with the arrival of winter, they remain the same. An observation on some city lines during three days of August of this year, highlights the problems faced by the citizens, problems which would not exist if the ordinances of the Municipality of Tirana on the conditions of city transport service condition, issued more than 6 years ago, were respected.

The date is August 5, 2022, and in the city line of the Ring Road the temperature reaches 34.5 degrees Celsius, while the air humidity reaches 43%. Among a large number of people, you can easily distinguish the boredom of the passengers, who, after paying for the ticket, push each other to make way for the cashier.

“It’s 1:45 p.m., 15 minutes have passed and I still haven’t arrived at my destination,” says Anila, a Natural Sciences student, who admits that she doesn’t use public transportation often.

“During the school period, I don’t use the bus often, because it’s always late and I don’t arrive on time when I have lessons during the first hours”, she says, adding that the lack of signs with the departure and arrival times of urban buses at the arrival station, is still an unmet need for travelers within the capital.

“The air conditioner is used only in cases of extreme weather conditions, but it is not powerful enough to benefit all passengers”, she says, emphasizing that the service received by customers does not justify the ticket price.

“We pay 40 or 80 lek when we need to take two lines, and in addition to arriving late at the destination, we find ourselves in an environment overflowing with passengers, where the air does not circulate and we cannot breathe,” she says.

Following a request for information sent to the Consumer Protection Agency, the latter states that only during the January-September period of last year, 68 complaints were registered for this line.

“Specifically, most of the complaints have come due to significant delays, slow movement of vehicles, malfunction of the air conditioner, as well as the behavior of staff”, – it is written in the answer.

High summer temperatures, the ordinance of the Municipality of Tirana is not respected in public transport

In the ordinance issued by the Municipality of Tirana in 2016, it is determined that all vehicles that are part of the urban public transport fleet must be equipped with air conditioning in conditions when temperatures exceed the minimum value of 15 degrees and the maximum value of 22 degrees Celsius .

Observations carried out by ACQJ on August 5 and 8, 2022, found out that the ordinance of the Municipality is not respected in any of 8 of the 16 urban lines operating in Tirana.

Urban service in the Allias line

Specifically, on the Sauk-Center line, the measured temperatures reached 31.2 degrees Celsius and the air humidity was 51.1%. On the line of Tirana e Re, the temperatures reached 33.7 degrees Celsius, while the air humidity was 49%, although the city bus was equipped with air conditioning.

“It’s not normal to travel in such conditions, but we can’t do anything about it,” says an elderly man as he descends from the overcrowded bus of Tirana e Re line.

“Now I have to walk 10 minutes, but I don’t want to take another bus because my pension is 20,000 Lek and I can’t spend 80 Lek a day just to take the urban and meet my niece”, he says.

In the city line of Kamza at 14:05 on August 8, the air humidity reached 41%, while the temperatures reached 33.3 degrees Celsius, in the bus of the Kombinat-Centre line the temperatures were 33 degrees Celsius, while the humidity was 44%. in the busses of ​​the Allias line, the temperatures reached 34.1 degrees Celsius.

The situation was no different in the Kinostudjo and Porcelan lines, where temperatures reached 33.8 degrees Celsius and air humidity was 41%.

The Consumer Protection Agency admits to ACQJ that inspectors carry out continuous checks every day.

“Mainly during the rush hours of citizens who travel by means of urban transport”, – says the answer, while it is affirmed that the lack of air conditioning in public transport means is a recurring problem.

Lack of subsidies, cause of poor-quality service

The representative of the Urban Transport Association, Dashnor Memaj, tells ACQJ that since 2013, transport within the capital is carried out by 11 private operators, which provide transport services on 16 different lines.

“City busses have the capacity to provide the service, but only a few lines manage to provide this service in a qualitative way”, says Memaj, who adds that since the start of the pandemic, the operators do not have the economic and human power to take to the street the entire fleet of vehicles at full capacity.

“The increase in the price of gas has an immediate impact on the economic performance of public transport entities, increasing the cost of our economic activity and making the price of the ticket not justify the smooth running of the service”, he says, emphasizing that urban transport is at a critical point of economic survival due to the lack of infrastructure.

Dashnor Memaj, representative of the Urban Transport Association

“If we didn’t have the continuous support that the countries of the region and beyond have, there will be no improvement in the service. Not that we don’t want to offer it to the passengers, but we can’t”, he concludes, adding that “if there is no continuous subsidy, there will have to be an increase in the ticket price, since the income of private operators depends on the ticket”.

Meanwhile, the Municipality of Tirana said through a written answer that in the budget of 2022 the subsidy of the city lines in the value of 136 000 000 ALL has been approved, but to the questions of the quality of service in the means of urban transport, and whether they have taken ay disciplinary measures against the operators which violate the ordinances of the Municipality, the latter did not give an answer, delegating the fault of the poor quality service, and the monitoring of the operators, to the Consumer Protection Agency and the Directorate of Public Transport.

Until the moment of publication of this article, these two questions have yet to receive an answer.

1 city bus for 2 932 inhabitants, Memaj: Licenses are not revoked for malfunctioning air conditioners

According to official data from INSTAT, 32.9% of the population of the Republic of Albania is concentrated in the region of Tirana. Specifically, approximately 912,000 inhabitants live in Tirana, while the urban transport fleet consists of only 311 city buses, not all of them in operation, which means that in the best case, 1 urban bus enables transportation within the capital for 2,932 inhabitants.

According to Memaj, the urban overflow comes as a result of the same schedules that citizens have to start their activities. “The peak is during the 07:00-08:00 schedule, as well as during the afternoons when citizens return from work”, he says, adding that city busses should have a separate lane to enable the arrival of passengers on time.

“On the urban lines of Tirana it is necessary to use air conditioners, but so far no line license has been revoked for this reason”, he says, noting that only last year the license was revoked from the companies that managed the Tufina and Unaza lines, where for this decision the Mayor Veliaj himself stated that the main cause was the abuse during the exercise of the activity during the lockdown (isolation) in the country due to the pandemic.

Winter is approaching, and just like during the summer when citizens suffered in scorching heat in city buses without air conditioning, they are also expected to suffer the harsh days of December and January. The lack of bus conditions has made citizens who do not have the opportunity to use their personal vehicles or taxis, be always in the dilemma: do I use the bus, or do I go on foot?