EghtesadOnline: As projected in the draft budget for fiscal 2020-21, the government has earmarked 50 trillion rials ($367 million) for upgrading the bus fleet.
According to Mehdi Jamalinejad, head of Iran's Municipalities and Village Administrators, near permanent clogged traffic and the worsening air pollution in megacities has long been a serious cause of concern among the people, environmentalists and climate activists. Officials in charge apparently are also concerned, but so are have come up with no effective solution, Financial Tribune reported.
“Thirty trillion rials [$220 million] has been taken into consideration in the next budget for the purchase of new buses and 20 trillion rials [$147 million] for renovating dilapidated vehicles," IRIB-affiliated news agency YJC quoted him as saying.
US economic sanctions have inflicted harm of Iran’s economy in more ways than one. With oil export revenues hit hard, the government is struggling to move forward as planned when it comes to funding urban development plans. Reports say given the ballooning budget deficit, many projects have been put on hold.
The poor quality of public transportation services have often been blamed on US sanctions by officials. But independent observers are of the opinion that mismanagement, embezzlement and corruption have generously contributed to the worsening situation.
A large part of the public transport fleet is dilapidated. Government officials put the average age of the bus fleet at around 12 years. However, independent sources believe the vehicles are much older.
Jamalinejad says over 79% of public transport vehicles should be consigned to the scrap yard. According to published reports, the number of new public vehicles added to the transport fleet in the past decade is negligible. Over 22,000 urban and 20,000 intercity buses ply the roads – numbers that need to multiply soon if the government really intends to cut exorbitant medical costs arising from toxic air and do its fair share in cutting Iran’s carbon footprint.
Effect of High Fuel Prices
The poor quality of public transportation was again thrust into the limelight after the government rationed and raised gasoline prices last November. The controversial decision triggered violent street protests and a sharp increase in demand for public transport that had already been overwhelmed.
The public transport fleet increased its services by 20% in recent weeks, Tehran City Council chairman, Mohsen Hashemi, told the media.
"The number of people using public transport has shot up 15-20% in the past few months. This is while the transport system cannot handle the huge influx," he said.
Highlighting deficiencies of the urban bus fleet, Hashemi said the number of operating buses is hardly 6,000 – almost half of what is required for decent transportation in the megacity.
He said the average age of the bus fleet is over 11 years and 50% of the vehicles are simply not roadworthy.
“The old buses have numerous technical flaws and cause inconvenience to passengers. They also copiously add to the worsening air pollution,” he said.
According to Peiman Sanandaji, a former head of the Tehran Bus Company, 100 buses have been repaired and reused from the beginning of the current fiscal year that ends in March.
Last June, 13 buses and 117 minibuses produced by domestic automakers, including Iran Khodro, Bahman Khodro and Sabalan Khodro, were added to the Tehran public transportation fleet.
The Tehran Municipality said it has started restoring 500 dilapidated buses that have long outlived their usefulness.
“Inefficient and limited public transportation is one of the problems afflicting Tehran residents. Addressing the issue is high on the municipality agenda,” Tehran Mayor Pirouz Hanachi has said.
In July 2019, TM signed an agreement with Omid Entrepreneurship Fund to allocate 12.5 trillion rials ($92 million) in easy loans to help improve Tehran’s ailing public transportation.
OEF and TM also discussed ways for overhauling the aging public transportation fleet, including repair and replacement of dilapidated taxis, minibuses, buses and vans.
The agreement also envisaged replacing smog-inducing motorcycles with electric bikes, increasing bicycle lanes and providing vehicles with pollution absorbents and high-quality catalyst converters, as well as upgrading air quality monitoring equipment.