County buses will be free to use for residents in 11 counties starting tomorrow Sunday. The system used will be similar to that of Tallinn, with passengers entitled to free tickets still having to register upon getting on their bus.
Starting 1 July, Valga, Võru, Viljandi, Põlva, Järva, Jõgeva, Tartu, Ida-Viru, Hiiu, and Saare County are introducing free public transport for county residents. While they will still have to pay to use lines that cross county borders, all they will have to do is validate their free ride upon getting on their bus.
The data collected this way will then be used to determine how the network of bus lines should be changed or developed.
Four of Estonia's 15 counties have not joined the government's free public transport scheme. This means the situation will remain the same in Harju, Pärnu, Lääne-Viru, and Rapla County, though Minister of Economic Affairs and Infrastructure Kadri Simson (Centre) confirmed that they still have the option to join the scheme later on.
According to the Road Administration, passengers will use a travel card much like the one already in use in Tallinn to validate their trips. The cards can be bought either directly from the drivers or at other sales points and cost €2. To use their right to free trips, residents will have to pair up their travel card with their ID code.
On buses that don't have the necessary electronic equipment, passengers will have to get their free ticket from the driver.
Simson signed a regulation in late April this year that allows counties to either reduce ticket prices to zero, or go on with the current system of partially subsidised bus lines. An incentive for county transport centres to make public transport available within their area for free is additional funding they will receive out of the state budget.
Editor: Dario Cavegn