Atlantic Cities

Estonia's Capital Pursues Free Public Transit

Estonia's Capital Pursues Free Public Transit
REUTERS/Ints Kalnins

Tallinn, Estonia, looks set to become the first European capital with a completely free public transportation system. As the BBC reports, Tallinn Mayor Edgar Savisaar wants his city of 416,000 to be "the flagship of the green movement in Europe." By providing free public transit for locals (visitors would still pay), city government believes car usage will decrease enough to make it worthwhile.

Seventy-five percent of referendum voters supported the free rides program, which is slated to begin in 2013.

It remains unclear how the city will pay for this, however. One-third of Tallinn's mass transit funding comes from ticket revenue. Increased ridership combined with decreasing revenue is often a good recipe for lower quality service, a result that could easily have the opposite effect: pushing residents back into their cars. 

Many smaller European towns provide free public transit for citizens. France has 12 different municipalities that do not charge for mass transit. Türi, Estonia (58 miles south of Tallinn) also has a free transit system. Some American cities also provide public transportation free of charge, with Vero Beach, Florida, the largest of them. 

Currently, Tallinn has a flat-fare system, costing passengers €1.60.

Photo credit: Reuters

Mark Byrnes is an associate editor at The Atlantic Cities. All posts »

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