Since Estonias capital started free public transport for residents in 2013, it claims to have turned a 20 m a year gain each year. But has the strategy achieved its ambitions of reducing traffic and saving people fund?
In London a monthly travel card for the whole city expenses almost 200. InCopenhagen, a city a fraction of the size, youll pay 160. So when you ask the residents of Tallinn about the benefits of free travelling across the city, its a surprise to be met with a roll of the eyes or a sarcastic smile.
The capital of Estonia introduced free public transport at the beginning of 2013 after their populist mayor Edgar Savisaar called a referendum on the decision, dismissed by critics at the time as a political stunt that the city couldnt afford.
Three years on Savisaar has been suspended amid allegations of corruption, but the city remains committed to the programme claiming that instead of it costing them fund, they are turning a profit of 20m a year.
To enjoy Tallinns bus, trams, trolley buses and develops for free you must be registered as nearby residents, which means that the municipality gets a 1,000 share of your income taxation every year, explains Dr Oded Cats, an expert who has conducted a year long analyze on the project. Residents only need to pay 2 for a green card and then all their trip-ups are free.
Since the scheme launched, an additional 25,000 people have registered in the city that previously had a population of 416, 000, but this is where the tension lies. The more fund for the city of Tallinn, the less there is for the places they leave behind, explains Cats, so its not hard to see why the government and the mayors office might find things differently.
Allan Alakula, the official spokesperson for the project, acknowledges boosting the popularity of the mayors officewas one of the key motivations for rolling out the project but insists that it was primarily about easing the burden on people billfolds, and the citys roads.
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