The Environmental Protection and Regional Development Ministry in Latvia has concluded that several provisions in the Riga City Council's rules on differentiated public transport ticket prices are against the law and must be revoked, reports LETA.
The Environmental Protection and Regional Development Ministry believes that the differentiated public transport ticket prices have been approved by the Riga City Council in violation of the social equality principle. Also, the Riga City Council's regulations No. 71 and 93 are discriminatory against certain groups of residents, that is, the Riga City Council has approved an increase in public ticket prices, while at the same time the prices will be reduced for persons who are official residents of Riga. This, the ministry believes, is against the principle of proportionality.
The Riga City Council and Riga municipal public transport company Rigas satiksme's intention to increase public transport prices 60 percent is nearly unprecedented. Already now, the municipal subsidy for Rigas satiksme is equal to some of the largest local government annual budgets. For instance, Daugavpils’ budget this year is 58 million lats; Liepaja’s budget is 55 million lats, whereas the subsidy for Rigas satiksme is more than 85 million euros this year and as much in 2014, and it is taxpayers' money that the Riga City Council gives the company.
"Riga City Council must offer a clear explanation about its contradictory decisions, made during the past several months, regarding the public transport system in the city, and the operations of Rigas satiksme must be audited, which has been requested several times already," notes the ministry.
The Riga City Council's regulations are against several laws and articles of the Constitution, as well as international laws. The European Union's Court of Justice has ruled in a similar case that economic considerations alone cannot be the only reason for putting a certain social group in a more advantageous position at the expense of other social groups.
The Riga City Council has not performed a detailed financial analysis of the effect that the regulations will have on the Riga budget, which is important, taking into consideration that the Riga City Council provides social assistance to a large number of residents, explains the ministry.
Therefore, the Environmental Protection and Regional Development Ministry is asking the Riga City Council to revoke its regulations No. 71 and 93 that deal with lowering public transport fares for Riga residents.
The ministry adds that the Riga City Council's decision to introduce a transition period, during which public transport fare in Riga will be 0.60 euros for all passengers, or 50 percent of the planned fare, has not been harmonized with the ministry.
The Environmental Protection and Regional Development Ministry urges the Riga City Council not to take more hasty decisions regarding the city's public transport system until a detailed analysis of the intended changes is carried out and Rigas satiksme's operations are audited.
"It is clear that the Riga City Council's destructive activities are not meant to solve problems in the city's public transport system, but to achieve that more residents declare Riga as their official place of residence. However, such goals should not be tackled by increasing public transport prices, which are discriminatory to other residents of Latvia as well as other local governments of Latvia," explains environmental protection and regional development minister's representative Inga Antane.
Riga City Council decided to increase public transport fare in Riga from 0.50 lats to 84 lats, whereas public transport fare for Riga residents will be 50 percent of the amount, or 0.60 euros.
In order to apply for the discount, residents must obtain the so-called "Rigan ID Cards," which is why residents are standing in long lines, sometimes up to several hours – like in Soviet times, thanks to Mayor Nils Usakovs and his government - so they could hand in their e-tickets and receive the new card.