Фото: Бојан Блажевски

The popularity of public transport in North Macedonia is in a constant decline, especially among young people. Most young people use public transport because they get free monthly passes and have no other options. Most of them would have chosen cars as their preferred option if they had the luxury to do so.

The delays or sometimes the omission of arrival at a given bus stop due to disturbed timetables; the low level of hygiene; the inherent state treatment duality between the students from the public universities and those from private universities and colleges, and the feeling of insufficient safety, are some of the main factors that cause dissatisfaction among the young when it comes to using public transportation.

Meta.mk arrived at these conclusions with the poll on the public transport usage habits of the young, conducted in cooperation with Studentarija in the period from the 7th to the 8th of March this year. The poll consisted of 6 questions to which 5,208 students gave answers. Most of the respondents were aged between 17 and 26.

According to the results, when asked how often they are using public city-suburban transport, 36.6% of the respondents have replied that they are using public transport every day and 21.6% have stated that they have never used it as a commute option.

When asked “How satisfied are you with the public city-suburban transport in your municipality?” most of them i.e. 47.2% replied they are partially satisfied, while less than 10% said they are completely satisfied with the public transportation’s services.

After the poll, Meta.mk contacted the university professor for public city transportation, Nikola Krstanoski PhD of the Technical faculty in Bitola for his expert opinion about the poll’s results.

He says that the young’s consciousness has been groomed so little about the gains of the use of public transport.

“Certainly, the basic reason is the low quality of the services that are provided by the public transport companies in our cities,” Prof. Krstanovski explains.

The results from the poll indicate that most of the reasons behind the dissatisfaction of the young with the public transport as a daily commute option is the lack of hygiene in the buses or the vans (27%), and close to that, 26.1% have stated that the reason behind their dissatisfaction is the distorted and irregular timetables.

“The experiences around the world indicate that the public urban transport can serve as an attractive alternative for mobility across the town only if it offers a high standard of services in accordance with the needs of the people living in that city. Otherwise, the public transport is used by those that have to use it i.e. have no other choice,” explains Prof. Nikola Krstanoski, analyzing the results of the poll on the dissatisfaction of the young with the public transport.

„As female, I am always under the risk of being sexually harassed on a public bus“, one of the respondents said.

However, the students in North Macedonia get free monthly passes for the public transport buses in the capital Skopje. Still, only the students that are enrolled at one of the faculties at the state universities can enjoy this opportunity, while the students at the private faculties have no chance to get a free monthly pass.

“They don’t always arrive on time, the COVID prevention rules and protocols aren’t obeyed. The buses and stations are too crowded,” explained one of the respondents.

This is one of the probable causes, as 38.7% of the respondents have stated that after their right to a free monthly pass expires, they will stop using public transport. When we asked, “Would you, after you stop using the student or high school free monthly pass, continue to use the public transport?” 35.1% of the respondents have responded that they are not sure, while 26.2% responded they would still use the public transportation services in the future.

When asked “If you could choose, which commute means would you be using most at present?” a high percentage of 60% of the respondents opted for a car. This is followed by 21.3% of the respondents, who chose the bicycle, while 7.7 of the respondents would use public transport.

Despite such worrisome responses regarding the perspective, the answers about young people’s choices 10 years from now are still negative. When asked “Which transportation means would you prefer to use in most in your life, 10 years from now? most of the respondents opted for a car, i.e.,81.4% while 2.3% of the respondents have replied they would be using public transport.

Some of the answers were complemented by comments that provided further clarity. According to the respondents, some of the main reasons why they are avoiding or aren’t using public transportation at all, apart from the general ones, have another side to them.

“For several months in Kumanovo there hasn’t been any type of public transpor, the City Hall cannot select a company in the tendering procedure. The previous transportation from the start of the pandemic is on a wish list timetables, so the drivers decide themselves when they will drive. Some days they feel like driving, other days they don’t,” said one of the respondents.

The facts that the busses are running late or do not arrive at all, but also the non-observance of facial masks oblibations are being repeated in most of the comments.

The results of the poll are worrisome. According to the young people’s opinion, which are among the most frequent users of the public city-suburban transport, but also according to Prof. Nikola Krstanoski, urgent changes are necessary. By regulating the timetables and make them timely and more frequent, improving the hygiene on the public buses, as well as the addition of bus lines that would be functioning in other cities, the interest for the use of public transportation will rise.