Survey: Lower earners using car more than the more well-heeled

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

State agency Statistics Estonia has identified an interesting phenomenon regarding car ownership and usage, which in the latter case in particular has been falling in higher wage-earning demographic sectors but, paradoxically, has been rising among lower-earners.

Statistics Estonia analyst Mari Jüssi said: "An interesting situation has arisen, whereby people with lower incomes are increasingly being forced to use the car, perhaps since their jobs are outside the city and there is no public transport that takes a reasonable amount of time to get there.

"However, wealthier people have started to value their everyday life, independently of the personal car, that a car he may still have it, but he doesn't prefer to move with it on a daily basis," said Jüssi.

 The opposite trend is among people with a lower than average income, where car use has increased from 20 percent to more than 40 percent in recent years, said Mari Jüssi, a mobility expert at the Transport Board.

This raises two problems, however. First, one of social inequality. The nature and schedules of more more affluent people's work has been growing increasingly flexible, with more and more opportunities to work from home, Statistics Estonia says,

According to statistics, all this has led people in the mentioned target group to move from car to bicycle or walking. At the same time, blue-collar workers' jobs are increasingly located outside the city, while still have their residences inside the city to work, and cannot do so easily via public transport.

"At the same time, we do have this free public transport [inside Tallinn city limits], which still has a social dimension in that people with lower incomes can save on their household expenses, but, and maybe this is in exaggerated form, a situation has arisen where people are saving the [public transport] ticket money for a year, and buying a car with that saved sum and using it to commuted," Jüssi went on.

The trend is also underscored by planning issues where development often takes place on the fringes of the larger towns, where land may be cheaper, but workers having to travel out there, and also customers in the case of large, out-of-town stores, are picking up the tab instead.

The Statistics Estonia survey questionnaire covered the primary methods of travel between home and work or between home and school, and revealed that while car ownership in Tallinn had risen rapidly over the past decade, the trend has been for a slow-down in the past three-to-four years.

Of positive take-aways, Jüssi pointed to the rising popularity of a car-independent lifestyle.

Public transport (bus, tram, trolleybus) inside Tallinn has been free to residents for over a decade.

Inside Tallinn, newer road developments put a higher emphasis on pedestrians and non-motor vehicle transport (and lead to road closures while the work is being done), while Tartu has temporarily held a "car-free avenue" in recent summers.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

Source: Statistics Estonia

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