RIGA - Since the signature drive was initiated earlier this week, already over 4,000 people have signed the petition demanding that public transportation fares in Riga not be differentiated for passengers registered in Riga, and for those who live outside of the capital, reports LETA. The portal Mana balss (My Voice) began the signature drive on Oct. 7.
If 10,000 citizens sign the petition, it will be handed in to the parliament.
Ieva Brante, who represents the organizers of the signature drive, previously told LETA that the goal is to prevent discrimination against a significant number of residents in Riga, as well as an increase in the number of those exiting Latvia.
The signature drive organizers previously sent an open letter to Minister of Environmental Protection and Regional Development Edmunds Sprudzs (Reform Party), which says that higher public transport fares will have a dramatic effect on low-income residents who cannot officially move to Riga. For instance, landlords who rent out apartments in Riga most often do not permit their tenants to declare such apartments as their official residence.
The letter also emphasizes that a large segment of the population work in Riga as they are unable to find jobs in their regions. “If public transport fares in Riga become more expensive, the above will be forced to look for jobs abroad. This especially concerns young and enterprising persons who live in regions and towns but have found, or are planning to find, a job in Riga. Therefore, higher public transport fares could result in a greater mass exodus.”
On the other hand, if more people who currently live in regions decide to settle in Riga, this will affect the incomes of other local governments, who will therefore cut spending on schools, kindergartens, needy residents, transport and other municipal services.
The letter goes on to say that Riga is the capital of Latvia and many services offered by Riga are unavailable elsewhere in the country - most public institutions are located in Riga, as well as museums, theaters, the airport and hospitals, that provide services that other hospitals do not.
Finally, the letter says that higher public transport fares in Riga will mean more automobiles, and therefore - slower traffic and worse air quality.
Riga City Council decided on Oct. 7 to systematically introduce discrimination against Latvian residents, and visitors to the country. As of Jan. 1 next year, residents who have declared Riga as their place of residence will pay 0.42 lats (0.6 euros) per one ride on Riga public transport. The fare for all other passengers will be 0.84 lats. The current fare is 0.5 lats.