Effects of the pandemic in Tallinn: Fewer cars and emptier buses

Traffic in Tallinn.
Traffic in Tallinn. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

The spread of COVID-19 and efforts to avoid social contacts are reflected in use of cars and public transport in Tallinn. Rush hour traffic sees 20 percent fewer cars, while public transport has lost almost a third of its passenger volume in the capital.

Data from the Tallinn Transport Department suggests that car traffic has thinned out considerably compared to the same period last year. The morning rush hour sees 20.1 percent fewer vehicles, while its evening counterpart is lighter by 14.7 percent year-over-year. The average reduction in daily car traffic is 17.3 percent.

"It seems that the start of the workday has moved and people do not have to be in by 8 a.m. or 9 a.m. anymore. The data also suggests that a considerable and growing percentage of people work from home," said Tallinn Deputy Mayor Andrei Novikov.

Karol Kovanen, head of parking operator Europark Estonia OÜ, said that people's movement and parking depend mostly on the spread of COVID-19 and associated restrictions. The company's turnover fell by 80 percent in a single month this spring, with the deficit around 10 percent at the beginning of fall. The company is operating 30 percent below last year's volume today.

"Parking is not a goal in itself for people. No one leaves their house to go park their car somewhere. People working from home or whose events have been canceled will not be coming to the city and parking their vehicles," Kovanen said.

Public transport use had fallen by roughly one-third by October. Passengers validated 4.9 million trips on Tallinn's buses, trams, trolleybuses and trains in September, down from 6.7 million last year. October trips numbered 4.86 this year, down from 7.06 million in 2019.

Andrei Novikov said that this will not see the city dial back public transport.

"Everything needs to remain operational whether we have 20 or a single person taking the bus. While this trend has made is somewhat easier to maintain social distance, things are still far from ideal," the deputy mayor added.

Novikov said that Tallinn is looking for to add departures to contribute to social distancing, while this would require state support for local governments.


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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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