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Posted on on April 7th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (


Who lives in Tallinn, travels free with public transport.

based on article by André Anwar of Der Standard of Vienna, 5 April 2013.
  • Passanten laufen in der estnischen Hauptstadt an einer Bahn vorbei. Seit Anfang des Jahres sind dort Fahrten mit Bus oder Straßenbahn gratis.  photo: apa / dpa / peer grimm

    Passersby walk past in the Estonian capital of a web. Since the beginning of the year there are free tours by bus or tram.

Since the inhabitants of the Estonian capital can drive for free on public transport, the traffic in the center of Tallinn is already decreased by 15 percent. Now also other cities consider to introduce free public transport.

Tallinn (from Stockholm) – Tickets are for sale on the buses and trams of Tallinn- but not for the citizen-residents of the Baltic metropolis. Since this year its 420,000 inhabitants, the capital of Estonia, the first capital in the world, they can be completely free and unlimited ride on public transport . This measure is intended to combat ever increasing number of traffic jams in addition to the air pollution.

15 percent less traffic

The city government now sees first successes. “The traffic in the city has declined by 15 percent,” said Allan Allaküla, traffic expert and head of the EU office of Tallinn, the standard. 21 percent of people say in surveys that they now use public transport more often. Last year, about 100,000 people a day used the public transport.

Mayor Edgar Savissar hopes that the number will increase significantly over the course of months yet. The new concept was flanked the year by numerous bus lanes on existing lanes in the city center. “Tallinn is innovative. Ours is the first capital, in which such a concept will be implemented on such a scale,” said Savisaar. The measure also increases the mobility significantly poorer families.

Controversial initiative

The initiative of the left-liberal city chief is highly controversial. Opponents – obviously from the right – criticize that with Tallinn’s bruised budget much more pressing social problems should be solved.

The transport had previously been heavily subsidized in Tallinn. A monthly ticket cost 18,50 €. Ticket proceeds from the end of 2012 show at least 33 percent of the cost of operating Öffi were covered. The loss is estimated by the opposition at 20 million euros. “The streets are full of potholes and there is no money for kindergartens,” criticizes Valdo Randpere of the bourgeois opposition.

Price increase for tourists

Tallin Mayor Savisaar disagrees saying that now more people are living in Tallinn, which ultimately increase tax revenues. In 2013, there were many people who take the public transport  and stay in Tallinn and its surroundings, yet continued to be registered for tax purpose in other municipalities. They now log on to Tallinn to enjoy the free electronic tickets – for only he who is registered in Tallinn, travels free.
For tourists and other visitors, the prices were doubled from 80 cents to 1.60 euros.

If the model works Tallinn in the longer term, it could set a precedent in the region as well. Namely the other two Baltic capitals Riga and Vilnius, as well as the Finnish Helsinki, consider the introduction of public transport for free as well.
(André Anwar, THE STANDARD, 6./7.4.2013)

We add to this that in a country like the United States this would not work – simply because it requires an identity card – and the US is reluctant at allowing the issuance of personal IDs. Progress in important issues – like the right to free transportation from a locality – to the people who are registered local tax payers – legal residents of the place – is just as important as the right to clean air and water – call it in UN fashion – an inalienable right.

So far as Austria goes – there will be a trip this month to Tallinn as part of the learning tour of Austrian local government – organized by the Think Tank Academy of the Austrian People’s Party. I will be on that tour and promise to make sure that the content of this article – originally brought to my attention by the left-of Center main Austrian newspaper – will not be lost to the members of the Austrian Right of center party. Mind you – both parties are part of long term government coalitions and starting to jostle in light of the September 2013 elections that could cause a relative change in strength that could lead to a change in the actual occupancy of the Chancellor’s office. We think that ideas like the one in this article should be on the table.

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