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Estonia is Making Public Transport Free

From July 1, every county in Estonia can implement free public transport for its residents, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

While counties can opt out of the system, doing so would mean missing out onadditional funding from the national budget allocated for county public transport.

To date, not all Estonia’s 15 counties have taken up the offer, though the free-fare zone is set to cover large areas of the country.

Some cities in France and Germany are considering making public transport freeto reduce traffic and air pollution, and Wales in the UK is experimenting with free weekend bus travel. But if Estonia’s plan is successful, it will become the world’s first free public transport nation.

Tallinn introduced free public transport for residents in 2013.
Image: visittallinn.ee

Why free transport?

Some argue that public transportation should be free, just like schools, parks and libraries are. And that it’s good for cities because making it easy for people to move around fosters commercial activity.

The city of Tallinn website says that free public transport benefits those on low incomes most, but it also encourages higher income groups to spend money in local restaurants, cafes and shops.

In Tallin, registering as a resident means that the city automatically receives a portion of the national taxes paid by each resident, boosting the municipal coffers.

“There’s no doubt that we not only cover the costs, but also come out with a surplus,” Allan Alaküla, Head of Tallinn European Union Office, told PopUpCity.

“We earned double as much as we have lost since introducing free public transport. We’re happy to see that so many people are motivated to register as residents in Tallinn to make use of free public transport.”