Tallinn's mayoral candidates met for one last debate on ETV last night, where the issue of public transport was front and center.
A summary of the relevant 10-minute part of the discussion:
- Hardo Aasmäe (Free Citizen of Tallinn election coalition) said the transport network had to be updated, the system's power supply had to be reorganized and more LNG buses had to be introduced. He said current money comes from carbon credit sales and EU funding, leaving open the question of what will happen when it runs out.
- Mart Helme (Conservative People's Party) concurred, and said a comprehensive approach had to be applied, with the routes redesigned to reflect modern needs.
- Incumbent Edgar Savisaar (Center) argued that much progress had been made. He noted that trolleybuses, which have been mentioned as ready for the scrapheap, were bought before the EU funding era and that many were far from obsolete. He emphasized, as Center has often done, that transport use was up. He criticized the state for not accepting the city's "helping hand," suggesting that there are problems with the deal where Tallinn pays a state-owned light rail company to allow its passengers to ride for free within city limits.
- Reform's Valdo Randpere countered that the increase in ridership was only 1.2 percent and car traffic was not down, which he said were the main goals of introducing free public transit for registered city residents in the first place. Randpere emphasized that he was not planning to get rid of free public transport if elected, but that it should be viewed as an interesting pilot program which was currently producing mixed returns.
- Eerik-Niiles Kross (IRL) said that so-called free transport was not actually free but a cost ultimately passed on to taxpayers. He also noted that "free transport" as such was not part of the Tallinn transport development plan, as opposed to other issues, such as better integrating the system with those of neighboring municipalities.
- Andres Anvelt (Social Democrats) also mentioned daily commuters - there are 50,000, more than the 22,000 who re-registered as Tallinn residents - and said one of the election pledges had been fulfilled - buses are now serving Ülemiste City, a business and tech park.
A panel of ETV judges said Anvelt was the winner, appearing best-informed, while Savisaar was the most skilled rhetorician.