Henri Arras: Traffic jams, few parking spaces and low physical activity

Henri Arras.
Henri Arras. Source: Bolt

Annoying congestion, not enough parking spaces and low physical activity. These are the main concerns of the residents of Estonia's two largest cities, according to a recent Norstat poll on people's mobility habits. While owning a personal vehicle is probably a necessity in the countryside, that is likely not the case in Tallinn and Tartu.

64 percent of Tallinn and Tartu residents find that traffic jams are a problem in their city. Navigation specialists TomTom publish a list of the world's 390 most congested cities every year.

Unfortunately, there is no data for Tartu, while Tallinn last came in 91st. It took on average 18 minutes and 20 seconds to go ten kilometers in Estonia's capital last year. This matches the result of Ankara in Turkey and is just 10 seconds faster than in Rio de Janeiro, which is the second largest city in Brazil at 6.7 million people.

If we put the average home-work commute at 14 kilometers (the average distance between the workplace and home in Estonia, according to Statistics Estonia), every Tallinn and Tartu car owner spent almost ten days driving and over a third of that time in congestion last year. The fuel cost of time spent in heavy traffic was €171, while it takes 117 trees to lock down the carbon dioxide emitted during that time.

Considering that 53 percent of all work commutes are made by car, residents of cities spend a considerable amount of time and money that way, next to the colossal environmental footprint of congestion.

Citizens are also disgruntled by a perceived shortage of parking spaces. 57 percent of Tallinn and Tartu residents find that the cities have too few parking spaces and lots. Parking spaces are crucial for cars as they spend 95 percent of their time occupying them, waiting for their owners. "Where to park?" is one of the main questions a driver needs to answer. A poll found it to be students' number one problem associated with going to the university in Tallinn.

Most cars need at least two parking spaces, one at work and one at home. There are cities in Europe where infrastructure meant for passenger cars, such as parking areas and roads, makes up over 60 percent of the territory. Attention also needs to be paid to parking safety as statistics from the Estonian Motor Insurance Bureau suggests 40 percent of traffic collisions have to do with parking.

The third concern highlighted in the survey is too little physical activity, which is something drivers often thing about when stuck in traffic. Two people out of three believe they should exercise more.

The concerns of Tallinn and Tartu residents are as understandable as they are solvable. They are the symptoms of the trend of motorization. But the poll also found that just 40 percent of people in Tallinn and Tartu consider this abundance of personal vehicles a problem. In other words, while we realize we waste time in traffic jams and do not get enough exercise, the preferred solutions are still faster roads or more parking spaces.

The most effective, fastest and cheapest way to solve these problems is to replace a personal vehicle with other ways of getting around, whether it's public transport, shared transport solutions or an active lifestyle.

While we must admit that using a car is often the only sensible way to get around for people outside major cities, Tallinn and Tartu at least offer enough alternatives today.

* Pollster Norstat carried out the survey where it questioned 1,000 people on behalf of shared mobility company Bolt in June 2023.


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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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