Tartu to nix parking permits for officials, free parking for electric cars

Tartu's Lossi tänav packed with parked cars, live traffic and pedestrians.
Tartu's Lossi tänav packed with parked cars, live traffic and pedestrians. Source: Tarmo Haud

Tartu city government submitted a bill to Tartu City Council this week set to eliminate free parking permits for city government employees and other institutions starting next year. Estonia's second city also wants to do away with free parking for all electric vehicles (EVs) starting in 2025.

As of late this October, Tartu city government has issued a total of 149 free parking permits, 81 of which are being used by city government departments or agencies under municipal administration and 68 of which are being used by other institutions, according to a press release.

In ditching the free parking permits, Tartu city government aims to reduce its share of the burden on the streets and parking lots of Central Tartu. The city also hopes the change will help direct its employees toward more health-supporting and environmentally friendly modes of mobility, it added.

According to Deputy Mayor Raimond Tamm (Reform), making Central Tartu more people-centered is a strategic direction on the city's part.

"To create a better urban space, we have to tackle the danger, noise and environmental impact arising from excessive vehicular traffic and facilitating alternative modes of movement," Tamm acknowledged. "That is why we at the city government want to motivate people in the city center in particular to drive cars less – and the number of cars parking there will be reduced along with it."

Especially crucial in the city center is reducing the number of vehicles parked all day, he added.

In the future, city government departments or municipal agencies can purchase parking permits like anyone else, however the purchase of each permit will have to be well justified and linked to the fulfillment of specific job duties.

This change will increase the transparency of city administration as well as contribute to the development of Tartu's urban space, the achievement of climate objectives as well as the diversification of modes of mobility, the city government noted.

Free lunch soon over for EVs too

Eight years ago, drivers of both electric vehicles and hybrids were permitted to park in Tartu's paid parking zones for free, but as the number thereof began to multiply, the city moved in 2019 to scrap the benefit for hybrid vehicles from 2021. Now, the city's latest bill is calling for an end to free parking for fully electric vehicles as well.

Despite their more environmentally friendly power source, providing EV drivers with free parking privileges is inconsistent with the aforementioned urban development trends.

As of this October, free parking permits have been issued for nearly 1,150 EVs, and according to the city, incentivizing parking for such a large number of vehicles in Central Tartu is unfounded.

According to the bill, EVs will retain the current right to free parking through the end of 2024.

As the free parking rights of physically disabled drivers and drivers of vehicles transporting physically disabled or blind people are already provided for in Estonia's Road Traffic Act, this week's bill is also set to remove the corresponding sections from Tartu's city-level regulations, eliminating the unnecessary duplication.

Parking arrangements in Tartu will remain unchanged for physically disabled people.


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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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