According to the Road Administration's public transport statistic, the number of passengers across all counties that introduced free public transport on 1 July this year has increased by 20%. In Ida-Viru County, passenger numbers almost doubled.
The introduction of free public transport has increased the number of passengers by 92% in Ida-Viru County. Kirke Williamson, in charge of the Road Administration's public transport department, told ERR that the changeover to the state-funded free transport scheme has been smooth, and that it has had a positive effect on passenger numbers everywhere it was introduced.
"In early July there was the problem that the chip cards ran out. On top of that people lacked information despite all the media attention," Williamson said. She added that some of the travellers didn't understand why they still had to validate their trips by using the chip card.
Some transport centres, the one in Ida-Viru County among them, have since had to make the first changes to their bus schedules and routes, mainly because some lines had a lot more passengers than expected. The Narva-Narva-Jõesuu route needed additional buses, Williamson said. The warm weather probably contributed to the increase as well, she added.
Since 1 July 2018 a regulation is in effect according to which the transport centres of Estonia's counties are free to choose their state support scheme. They can either work with partial funding by the state and go on selling tickets, or change over to the new free bus lines system, under which the state subsidises local public transport 100%.
So far, the centres of Viljandi, Valga, Võru, Põlva, Järva, Jõgeva, Tartu and Ida-Viru County as well as Hiiumaa and Saaremaa have joined the scheme. In Lääne County the lines operated by MTÜ Põhja-Eesti Ühistranspordikeskus are also free of charge.
Editor: Dario Cavegn