people died in this "marshrutka",
the fourth fatal crash on Heratsi street
in recent months.
A major traffic accident in Yerevan this week
has focused attention on the chronic problem of
overloaded public minibuses, traffic congestion
and a transportation system that encourages hazardous
On Monday afternoon five people were killed and
13 injured, requiring hospitalization.
Wednesday, the death toll rose to six, as driver
David Manukyan, 45, died from injuries sustained
when his minibus rolled over, striking four other
passenger vehicles. The minibus, serving Route
No. 81 which connects Avan with Erebuni was traveling
on Heratsi Street when it flipped and struck cars
parked on Koryun Street.
Initially, the accident was being blamed on brake
failure. After Manukyan's death, however, officials
are now saying he simply lost control of the vehicle
due to it being overloaded.
Built to hold 14 passengers, the RAF minibus
(known locally by their Russian name "marshrutka")
was carrying 17 riders. Though police have criticized
Manukyan's decision to exceed passenger limits,
it is well known that having only three extra
passengers is less than the norm for buses on
Monday's crash is the fourth minibus crash in
recent months on the same street, each resulting
accident that injured 12 involved five vehicles..
Since independence, the number of minibuses operating
in the capital has increased from less than 200
to more than 2,000. According to the Municipal
Transportation Department, numerous other minibuses
operate illegally - meaning they are either not
registered and/or the driver does not have a chauffeur's
The accident that took six lives involved an
illegally operated bus. The bus was not registered,
and Manukyan's permit did not include authorization
to be driving on that specific route.
Jivan Fidanyan, director of J. Fidanyan Ltd.,
which owns operation rights to Route 81, has been
arrested for violations in connection with the
The accident has caused police to crack down
on minibus use. Since Monday's crash, overcrowded
buses have been impounded and licenses confiscated.
Drivers of public minivans complain that they
must fill their vehicles with as many passengers
as possible, in order to cover the costs of operation.
State taxes, for example, cost about $50 a month.
(Minibus fares are 100 drams - about 16 cents
- per ride.)
streets of Yerevan are overfilled with minibuses.
"The reason is that we want to live more
or less normally," says 37 year old driver
Karen Serobyan. "In addition to state taxes
we pay the rent for cars, plus, we pay the route
owner, route controllers and as a result we earn
almost nothing. Plus if our vans have defects
then we must repair them at our own expense."
Drivers say that enforcement by police since
Tuesday is mere formality.
Republic of Armenia Police spokesperson Sayat
Shirinyan says that the department is constantly
patrolling against overcrowded buses.
Shirinyan also says that, as vehicle traffic
overall (including minibuses) has increased, so
have the number of multiple-vehicle accidents
like Monday's. Part of the reason, he says, is
because of recent reconstruction and some re-routing
"It turns out that streets have been reconstructed
to restore normal traffic operations but they
turned into something that gave impulse to the
increase of accidents," he said, adding that
since streets have been repaved, drivers drive
In the first nine months of this year 695 traffic
accidents occurred, causing 174 deaths and 884