Public transport in Tallinn is currently free for all registered residents of the capital city. The coalition Centre Party, however, intends to expand free public transport in Tallinn to all Estonian residents, part of a broader effort to ultimately provide free transport throughout Estonia.
According to Centre Party board member Toomas Vitsut, the time has come to take the decisive step of expanding free public transport and, in addition to residents of the capital city, offer free public transport in Tallinn to all Estonian residents.
"The Centre Party's objective is to enable free public transport for all of Estonia's people both in Tallinn as well as other municipalities where free public transport is or will be provided," Mr Vitsut said.
If free public transport were made available to all Estonian residents, he continued, the state would need to establish a compensation mechanism for municipalities that decide to introduce free transport in order to compensate for foregone revenue. The state and local governments have to move forward in step and agree on the implementation of a unified free public transport system across Estonia, he added.
The issue is currently the most pressing in Tallinn, where the free public transport system rolled out in 2013 is only free of charge to registered residents of Tallinn. According to Mr Vitsut, providing free public transport to all would contribute to the support of those who work in Tallinn but live elsewhere as well as to the Estonian economy as a whole.
"Currently, many people who take public transport to work spend a significant portion of their wages on transport fares," he highlighted. "In the future, however, that expenditure would be eliminated. The taxpayer's money would reach where it is needed the most directly, and we would avoid any bureaucratic redistribution."
Not just in Tallinn
According to Mr Vitsut, however, the Centre Party considers important the active development of public transport in all of Estonia, not just in Tallinn.
"For this reason, the goal has been to develop the right to free transport throughout all of Estonia," he explained. "Passengers have supported free regional transport all over Estonia. Fighting it tends to end the same way it does with all progressive ideas — society will keep on developing, progressive ideas are adopted, and, after a while, even those who opposed them would prefer not to recall their [earlier] resistance."
To date, 11 of 15 counties across Estonia have adopted free regional public transport, with regional public transport centres in the remaining counties considering the initiative unnecessary. In 2013, the City of Tallinn opted to promote the use of public transport, making it free of charge to registered city residents.
Editor: Aili Vahtla