Tallinn's Kristiine traffic junction is the Estonian capital city's most important junction of various modes of transport, the sound planning and construction of which could, among other benefits, multiply rail ridership within the city severalfold, according to the results of a recently completed study.
In an expert assessment of new rail stops for Tallinn, mobility and rail transport expert Hannes Luts found that integrating rail and urban transport at the Kristiine junction would significantly increase rail ridership.
One third of people who work in the Ülemiste neighborhood of Tallinn live in areas served by rail transport, however this potential remains practically untapped — currently, just 5 percent of the area's employees take the train to get to work. By improving the quality and increasing the frequency of rail traffic, however, this number could be increased severalfold, Luts found.
In order to do so, the current Lilleküla rail stop should be relocated to right by the Endla tänav overpass, and infrastructure built allowing for passengers to transfer easily from train to train as well as between trains and buses and trolleys.
Realizing the rail passenger potential between Talinn's city center, currently served by Balti jaam, and Ülemiste could mean some 4.4 million rail passengers within city limits by 2035; half of these passengers could use the Kristiine junction to transfer between trains. This would mark an enormous growth in city rail ridership, which stood at just 130,000 in 2017, for example.
Add in regional and long-distance rail ridership, of which the junction would serve 5.8 million passengers a year. This would be more than twice as many as served by Balti jaam in 2019.
"Based on both the aforementioned figures as well as previous studies, we can say with great certainty that a stop at Kristiine would become the highest traffic public transport junction in Tallinn," Luts noted.
Endla overpass to receive non-motorized traffic tunnels
Behind all of this, however, are several buts. Kristiine is indeed one of Tallinn's most important traffic and transport junctions, however the relocation of a rail stop alone isn't enough to change passenger behavior.
In order to actually get more people to start taking the train from Kristiine, all public transport stops in the immediate vicinity should be relocated as close as possible to the Endla tänav overpass. This would mean shifting the bus and trolley stops currently located in front of Kristiine Center closer to the overpass, but also building a brand new rail stop on the other side of Endla tänav, Luts said.
And even that wouldn't be enough to get people to transfer from trolleys and buses to the train or vice versa, Tallinn Deputy Mayor Vladimir Svet (Center) claimed.
"If we want people to transfer from the train to the bus and from the bus to the train, then we need to do more than move the stops close to one another — they need to be conveniently linked as well," Svet said.
According to the deputy mayor, the plan wouldn't be to start building something along the lines of the planned Ülemiste terminal at Kristiine, but it would be possible to built much more user-friendly passenger pavilions on the platforms as well as build convenient connections for non-motorized traffic, including pedestrians and cyclists.
One such project is already slated to begin this year — construction is slated to begin late this year on non-motorized traffic tunnels under the Endla tänav overpass. The tunnels will be located on either side of Endla tänav.
"These are tunnels meant for pedestrians and cyclists that won't go underground, but rather pass through the railway embankment, just like on Riia tänav in Tartu," Svet explained. Based on that very same project, we know that the construction of the tunnel body is a pretty complicated and labor-intensive process. I believe that it will take at the very least a year to complete this work, but likely longer as well."
Big, expensive overhaul
Svet said that in reality, in order to achieve the best possible results, traffic in the entire area needs to be reconsidered and redesigned. The recently completed study suggests the same, noting that non-motorized road users have a difficult time crossing the very wide Endla tänav near the overpass and recommending adding an overpass for non-motorized traffic there as well.
"If the rail platforms were relocated closer to the Endla overpass, then we need to consider how to rearrange public transport stops, which will likely require a review of the logic of the entire Taksopark intersection and an overhaul of the entire intersection," he said. "These three things — city transport, the relocation of the rail platforms and non-motorized traffic — are very substantial, and this will require an integrated solution of the entire traffic junction, and giving it new meaning, and this will ultimately be very expensive.
All of this is nonetheless possible, he continued. "We know that next year we'll have the opportunity to involve European structural funds to develop multimodal junction stations, and the Kristiine Center area will certainly be one potential investment object that we will be considering as we allocate funds," Svet said.
"If the Kristiine junction is properly designed — if we tie rail, non-motorized transport, city public transport but also cars, then we can resolve quite a number of problems," he added.
Editor: Aili Vahtla