|Project Rationale and Linkage to Country/Regional Strategy
Armenia has a population of 3.24 million and is the most urbanized country in the Caucasus. Urban areas are the pillars of economic growth and home to 2.1 million people, or 64% of the total population. They can be classified into four groups: (i) Yerevan, the capital city; (ii) secondary cities such as Gyumri, Kapan, and Vanadzor; (iii) cities with industry and agro-processing potential such as Armavir, Artashat, Ashtarak and Ararat; and (iv) cities with high tourism potential such as Dilijan, Jermuk, Sevan, and Tsakhradzor. Together, these 12 cities generate almost 90% of the nation's gross domestic product; Yerevan with its 1.12 million inhabitants alone accounts for 60% of the national economy. Until the financial crisis in 2008, Armenia's landlocked economy enjoyed double-digit growth despite high transport and communication costs to the outside world. Since then, the economy has shrunk, and economic activity has become relatively more concentrated in Yerevan and, to a lesser extent, in Gyumri, Vanadzor, and Kapan
Urban development. Unbalanced economic growth among regions and the dominance of Yerevan have constrained national development. Most other cities have just one industry and lack a strong economic base. Even within Yerevan, since 1991, the most important urban trend has been the gradual collapse of heavy industry, which was mainly in the south of the city. This dramatically cut jobs, relocated centers of attraction, and caused a corresponding fall in demand for public transport on the metro, tramway, trolleybuses and buses serving these areas. While the city has since been revived with new commercial and residential developments, increased motorization has worsened the urban environment with poor air quality, excessive noise, traffic congestion, lost green areas, and degraded historical buildings. Other secondary and smaller cities have seen no major urban infrastructure investments since 1991, and they share common transport problems: poor and inappropriate road infrastructure, highly inefficient urban transport systems, rising traffic congestion and pollution. They need to revamp their urban services, particularly transport infrastructure, to boost competitiveness, provide more stable platforms for economic growth, serve growing and diverse urban mobility needs, and stimulate private sector investments. Each of the four groups of cities has its importance in the national economy. For instance, Gyumri and Kapan are on the north south road corridor, which is a major conduit for trade and flow of goods connecting the north and south gateways of the country
Traffic, road safety, and parking. Economic growth has brought widespread vehicle ownership, which has grown by 40% since 2004, including cars and taxis. The number of accidents in Yerevan has risen in parallel, from 260 fatalities in 2004 to more than 400 in 2008, with the number of injured more than doubling from 1,500 in 2004 to 3,125 in 2008. This has put road safety on the government agenda. Despite improvements in major arteries in the capital, the traffic signal system is outdated and inadequate. Environmental protection is now another major priority. Located in Ararat Valley, Yerevan has little natural ventilation, and congestion results in concentration of hazardous substances. Urban transport generated 90% of air pollution in 2008, with carbon dioxide emissions expected to increase by 160% by 2020. The limited number of bridges in Yerevan over the Hrazdan River creates bottlenecks and massive congestion during peak hours. In addition, a city bypass remains uncompleted, disallowing any diversion of passing traffic. Illegal and double parking, inappropriate driving behavior, and poorly enforced traffic laws further constrain mobility. In 2009, traffic exceeded design capacity on more than 20% of the road network, and a further 35% was about to reach its limit.
Public transport. Today, the Yerevan public transport system has microbuses, buses, trolleybuses, and metro routes. Public transport infrastructure is aged, and the vehicle fleet is old and poorly maintained, travelling an average speed of 16 kilometers (km) per hour. The system has a single 12.1-km metro line with 10 stations and a fleet of 70 old carriages. Metro ridership accounts for only 8.2% of total public transport ridership, which stood at 207 million passenger trips in 2009. Today, 85% of the passengers are carried by unsubsidized private microbuses, despite their expensive fares. While minibuses spared Yerevan a severe transport crisis in the 1990s, they now contribute to a nearly chaotic situation that has seen big and medium-sized buses pushed out. The quality of service is poor because of overloading and congestion. This shift has severely compromised the financial sustainability of other public transport and caused investment backlogs for trolleybus and metro, as fares are too low to cover operating and renewal costs. In other Armenian cities, urban transport issues are similar but less dire. They all have deteriorating urban road networks with inefficient or nonexistent systems of traffic management and inappropriate public transport that relies too heavily on microbuses. They need network restructuring, as routes often duplicate others, providing poor service and minimal comfort. Local capacity for municipal planning, operating, and monitoring transport services is limited, unable to propose solutions able to cope with congestion and poor road safety. In tourist centers, urban infrastructure is unable to cope with growing demand and inflows of tourists during peak seasons.
Sector strategy, road map, and institutional reform. The national government and Yerevan municipality have invested more than $110 million in upgrading urban infrastructure to energize the local economy. The long-term investment requirements stemming from Armenia's urban development strategy for the country as a whole have been estimated at $960 million from 2011 to 2025. The Government of Armenia needs help to address this challenge, and boost economic growth by balancing territorial development, with an emphasis on developing city clusters. The strategy comprises sequenced investments, to be mobilized through private, public, and public private initiatives, and municipal reforms relating to policy, planning, and regulation. The investment requirements include both physical and non physical components, sequenced in two phases that address medium and long term needs.