High gas prices not significantly impacting people's driving habits

Cars sitting in traffic.
Cars sitting in traffic. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

High fuel prices have not yet had a significant impact on people's transport habits, although residents of more remote rural areas may have no viable alternative to driving.

As the cost of filling up the tank continues to rise, it could be expected that increasing numbers of city-dwellers would opt to travel by bus or bike instead. According to Indrek Gailan, director of the Transport Development and Investments Department at the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications, this may not necessarily end up being the case.

"Considering the growth in people's purchasing power, current fuel prices aren't more expensive than they were in 2014," Gailan said. "The price increase did not currently impact public transport use."

A bigger impact has been caused by the COVID-19 pandemic: people began avoiding public transport or have been altogether stationary while working from home due to the risk of infection.

"In 2019, Tallinn public transport saw a ridership of approximately 143 million rides," Tallinn Transport Department director Andres Harjo said. "In 2020, that figure stood at 90.6 rides, and in 2021, at 75.5 million rides."

While the decrease in the spread of COVID and high fuel prices may see Tallinn residents increasingly use public transport again, Harjo doubts they will see 2019 ridership levels again anytime soon.

City-dwellers also tend to opt for bikes and electric scooters as well, but these options aren't always available for those living in rural areas. Kastre Municipal Mayor Priit Lomp noted that this is why personal vehicles may be an unavoidable option for daily transport.

"Some suffer a bit more than others," Lomp said. "Those people certainly exist for whom that 10-15 percent increase in grocery bills doesn't make a difference to their wallet. They just skip some other luxury for the time being ⁠— they skip a few planned trips to the theater or some travel, or a weekend at the spa. But we also have a huge number of people who live in significantly worse conditions, who are pinching every penny."

The municipal mayor added that it would help if the state were to reduce fuel excise duty rates as well as increase the subsistence level.

Gailan said that on-demand transport or subsidies for purchasing electric vehicles could be helpful too. Rapla County businessperson Siret Elmi, for example, has been considering buying an electric vehicle.

"Our cargo transport isn't with a big commercial vehicle; we use a station wagon," Elmi said. "We are able to transport our goods with this type of car."

But Elmi also finds it necessary to reduce the fuel excise duty rate. The small-scale marmalade producer orders delivery services when needed for bigger deliveries, and the cost of these services would not be impacted by their use of an electric vehicle.


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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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