Tallinn’s public transport is part of a greater plan

Since 2013, all citizens of Tallinn can avail of free public transport. The entire tram network will be updated by the end of 2017 and modern regular and hybrid buses have appeared on the streets. New routes servicing new logistic areas have also been added. Now you can take a tram from Tallinn city centre to the airport. At micro level it is considered to be a tram or bus transport subsidy from the city budget and has been analysed as such so far.

The size of the subsidy for Tallinn’s public transport was 12 million euros a year just before transition. Both local and foreign experts have carried out cost-benefit analyses and it is now clear that the project has proven its worth, as the number of residents of Tallinn has grown rapidly and as such it has increased tax revenue. As of 1 January 2012, the number of people living in Tallinn was 416,144 according to the population register and as of 1 August 2017 it had grown to 445,480. The increase was 29,336 residents. In terms of Tallinn city budget, every 1,000 new citizens means one million euros additional tax revenue. Thus, the free public transport in Tallinn is definitely positive, even from an economic aspect alone. In terms of city management, the free public transport serves as a means of promoting environmental and social purposes - writes baltic-course.com.

In 2006, when the current Prime MinisterJüri Rataswas the mayor of Tallinn, he initiated the idea of “Green Capital” with a purpose of improving the living environment in European cities and to first and foremost appreciate and reward the efforts cities make in improving the environment and quality of life.

The conference of the Commission for the Environment, Climate Change and Energy of the European Committee of the Regions took place in Tallinn at the beginning of July, where I held an opening address and relayed that air pollution has become one of the main environmental issues in large cities. The increase in traffic volume and restructuring of the economy have caused rapid changes in this area all over Europe in the last decade: the focus has shifted from industrial areas to cities. This is further supported by the air quality monitoring stations in Tallinn. As of today, there are three national stationary outdoor air monitoring stations in Tallinn operated by the Estonian Environmental Research Centre. Since intense traffic flows through the centre of Tallinn, the purpose is to reduce the city centre’s air pollution and ambient noise level via a more effectively drawn traffic plan and traffic intensity. For this we need to reduce the number of cars in the city centre and give priority to public transport. Free public transport together with a park and ride system is a perfectly suitable choice for achieving this purpose. The city initiated the park and ride project to reduce traffic in the city centre as early as 2007. As a part of this, four large car parks were built around the city centre, allowing their users to conveniently change for public transportation.

The gate system of the park and ride car parks allows drivers who are not residents of Tallinn to use public transport for free and park for free as well. Thus, public transportation has been integrated in the city’s means of solving environmental issues, and its results can already been seen – WHO lists Tallinn as the seventh capital in the world with the cleanest air. Tallinn is moving in the same direction as the rest of Europe by prioritising pedestrians and public transport. The availability of public transport also has a direct impact on the social sustainability of the city environment, since expensive public transport accelerates impoverishment, limits employment opportunities and promotes antisocial behaviour.

Tallinn is not a homogeneous city; even its districts are very diverse. Since all resident groups in Tallinn have access to public transport, our regionbased differentiation is considerably slower compared to many other European capitals. All in all we can say that Tallinners are happy with their free public transport. This is further supported by the latest study on the citizen’s satisfaction with public services of Tallinn, showing that 46% of people surveyed thought that the situation of Tallinn’s public transport has improved within the last 12 months and the residents are happy with the service. The proportion of residents using the public transport has also increased. In 2014, as much as 62% of citizens used public transport daily. According to the study published by the International Association of Public Transport (UITP) in autumn 2016, Tallinn is among the top three capitals in Europe where the number of public transport users increases most rapidly. The UITP statistics show that the use of public transport has grown by nearly one fifth in Tallinn in the last five years. From 114 million journeys in 2010 we have made it to 143 million in 2014 taking all the bus, tram, trolleybus and train journeys within the city into consideration. The number of bus transport users has grown the most in Tallinn. From 61 million journeys in 2010, we made it to 97 million in 2014. Thus, it has increased by more than a third. Tallinn’s experience in implementing free public transport has attracted widespread international attention. There are cities with free public transportation in the majority of European countries, such as in Poland, where public transport is entirely or partially free in 50 cities and dozens of other cities are preparing for a transition to free public transport. In the wider world, China has shown great interest in implementing free public transport in Chengdu with a population of 16 million.

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