The decision to end free public transport opportunities is a huge mistake as less fortunate people might have to spend a month's wages on bus tickets for the whole year, former Center Party head Jüri Ratas said.
Estonia will abolish free public transport on county lines from next year. The system was introduced in the second half of 2018 when Jüri Ratas was prime minister and Kadri Simson economy minister (both Center).
Ratas told ERR that ending the possibility of public transport constitutes a huge mistake. He emphasized the word "possibility" because the decision is currently up to public transport centers.
The politician said that waning purchasing power and price hikes mean that free public transport is an important service for getting people where they need to go.
Ratas calculated that paying €3 for bus tickets on workdays would come to a monthly total of € 63 in September. If we subtract a month's worth of vacation, a person would still have to spend €700 on tickets annually.
"For people earning a modest wage, this means parting with a month's salary just to buy tickets," Ratas remarked.
He added that it is clear revenue from ticket sales would not go a long way toward boosting public transport quality.
"I also think that free public transport has been an environmentally friendly way of thinking in motivating more people to use it."
The plan to abolish free public transport was included in the coalition agreement, and Minister of Regional Affairs Madis Kallas said it has now been decided people will have to start buying tickets again from January 1, 2024.
Current plans would retain free rides for children and young people up to the age of 19, as well as everyone over 63. Kallas said that a single ticket could cost €1.5 and be good for 90 minutes, while monthly tickets could run €20-25 and be without regional restrictions.
Editor: Marcus Turovski