Residents of Tallinn's Pirita district have sent the city government a public address, calling for a traffic and mobility survey to map out a long-term plan for the borough before building new roads and signing off on real estate developments.
The address writes that the once remote suburb has effectively turned into an extension of the city center and a thoroughfare for residents of outlying settlements today.
"Ranna road – Merivälja road – Pirita road is the best-known artery, while traffic is also complicated on Pärnamäe and Kose roads, not to mention inner-borough streets that offer motorists at least partial respite from the gridlock. To avoid Pirita becoming just a transit corridor and to ensure its continued attractiveness as a residential district, it is high time to lay down a longer-term plan for mobility," the undersigned write.
They point out that the rural municipality of Viimsi (that commuters reach through Pirita – ed.) has 20,000 residents today, while it wants to have 30,000-40,000 people in the future, which is also where the population of Pirita is headed.
"Therefore, we are presumably talking about a plan for an area that will have ca 70,000 residents in the not too distant future, many of whom will be surrounded by the sea on three sides, living on a peninsula," the address reads.
A mobility and traffic study for Viimsi from 2015-2018 found that most residents work in Tallinn, while most of the latter get there by car. Cars have become increasingly numerous as there are no viable alternatives.
The average number of cars a household uses for their daily commute has grown from 1.6 to 2.1, or by more than 30 percent, in the past decade. Considering how similar the areas are, these tendencies likely apply also to Pirita and Muuga. Statistics from the past five years suggests car traffic is up by 25 percent in the capital, meaning 30,000 additional vehicles," the authors write.
Traffic density also depends on school holidays and could be alleviated by creating new school and kindergarten places in the Pirita area. A study by Tallinn's education board from last year found that over 50 percent of students living in Pirita go to school outside the district. Residents believe this suggests more school places are needed in Pirita, so that basic school students could attend school close to home and get there on their own.
"The population of Pirita and its makeup depends mostly on migration, which is why there are no grounds to believe demand for kindergarten and school places will fall due to demographic reasons," the petition reads.
Locals also criticize poor public transport
The authors believe that the most effective way to reduce use of cars would be to offer high-quality public transport alternatives. Unfortunately, Viimsi county lines and Tallinn public transport networks have not seen development in decades, with most lines having stayed the same despite new destinations.
Pirita residents also ask the city to consider mobility when making decisions regarding real estate developments. For example, a planned development for apartment buildings for 800-1,000 people on Pirita road would add around 1,000 vehicles looking to turn left to head into the city every morning. There are several developments in the pipeline that will see thousands of new houses and over 10,000 people added to the area. Because there is no leap in terms of quality in sight for public transport, these trends will only see traffic density become worse.
"That is why it is also vital to concentrate on more mindful spatial planning for Pirita. Cooperation and its continuity with Viimsi and Maardu municipalities but also other parts of Tallinn, especially Lasnamäe and the city center, is equally important," the undersigned write, suggesting that only a knowledge-based solution can be successful. This means the area needs a mobility study based on which the best possible traffic solutions could be analyzed.
Only Viimsi has ordered sufficiently thorough mobility and traffic analyses so far. Pirita lacks a mobility study of its own, traffic surveys are few and far apart, while residents believe proposed solutions can only attempt to put out the fire as long as there is no knowledge-based analysis on general mobility.
"The public address proposes a thorough mobility study/analysis for Pirita to look at how people get around today, the reasons for it and steps needed to promote sustainable mobility," the residents write, adding that until such an analysis has been carried out, no detailed plans that strongly affect Pirita traffic and mobility should be initiated.
The address, sent to Mayor of Tallinn Mihhail Kõlvart, city council chair Tiit Terik, Deputy Mayor Kalle Klandorf, Pirita Elder Tõnis Liinat and Pirita Deputy Elder Kalle Jõks, has been signed by representatives of the Merivälja Garden Town Society, Mähe Society and Maarjamäe Society, spokespeople for the residents of Pirita-Kose, the TV Tower area and member of the Pirita city district council Lea Nilson.
Transport board plans to analyze surveillance data first
Deputy head of the Tallinn Transport Board Talvo Rüütelmaa told ERR that the current traffic model has around 1,700 vehicles moving from Pirita to the city center during the morning rush hour, while Pirita road sees over 2,200 vehicles move out of the city during the evening one. A single lane is estimated to cater to 900 vehicles if the average speed is 45 kilometers per hour.
"Because there are two lanes in either direction, traffic density is close to what it can be there, and because there is major traffic on Narva highway and we'll see additional pressure created for the intersection by the Reidi road, we should definitely review these developments and wishes and find optimal solutions in this new light."
As concerns public transport, Rüütelmaa said that if currently there is a bus lane on Pirita road going to the city center, the city plans to add one leading out of the city in the near future, giving Pirita, Viimsi and Mähe faster and more convenient public transport.
"We need to look at the big picture. Not everyone will switch to public transport, while we can also see more people use bicycles and scooters every day. The more aware people become regarding ways of getting around, the less the problem of cars will become. In this sense and in light of what we've said, it would definitely be sensible to analyze circumstances," he said.
The board will analyze existing traffic surveillance and traffic models data and go over perspective plans before launching a broader study. This will allow the city to decide whether and what kind of study is needed, Rüütelmaa said.
He also agreed that traffic is affected by number of school and kindergarten places in the Pirita area and that it needs to be kept in mind in terms of mobility and future perspectives. However, rapid solutions are difficult to find.
"It is a very serious matter that we need to thoroughly analyze, and to avoid possible human error, we need to involve different specialists so that nothing is overlooked. The more thorough we are in our analysis, the better the solution in the end," the city transport deputy chief said.
Editor: Marcus Turovski