The Belgian city of Hasselt, population 75,000, which was a model for Tallinn's free public transport service, has decided to end the project 16 years on.
The city has seen public transport passenger numbers surge by 12-fold over the period, but expenses have also grown by a factor of six, leading the city to rethink its approach, Eesti Päevaleht reported today.
Only 16 percent of people crossed over from cars to buses, while another 12 percent of cyclists and 9 percent of pedestrians switched to public transport, Hasselt's statistics show.
Over 90 percent of families in the town still own a car, while 73 percent drive to work.
European Transport Commissioner Siim Kallas said that Tallinn's project was an experiment many on the continent are monitoring.
“We know that many cities have begun and that some have closed down such projects. The main question is how to sustain attractiveness, which can be summed up by two elements: speed and frequency of the service,” Kallas said, speaking at a Tallinn University conference on free public transport.
Tallinn mayor Edgar Savisaar also spoke at the conference today, saying that public transport is usually subsidized by 60 to 70 percent and that there is little point to the service if, after huge subsidies, some are still unable to afford public transport.