Wednesday, February 20, 2013

"Most effective means" of confronting traffic congestion

Residents enjoy free public transport.


On 1 January 2013, Tallinn, Estona, became the largest European city and the first European capital to provide free public transport to its residents. 

The initial results of the move are encouraging: the use of public transport in Tallinn has already increased by 10% while traffic in city centre has reduced by 15%.
Many major cities are seeking ways to reduce traffic levels in the city centre, turning to measures such as congestion charges or building new roads. However, the Estonian capital decided that offering free public transport to its 423,000 residents would be the most effective means of confronting the challenge.

The city council was already subsidising 70% of the costs of public transport, but this new initiative is adding a further €12 million to the city’s annual transport expenditure. The city will get some of the money back though, with the national government offering a bonus of around €1 million for every 1,000 residents registering (by way of personal income tax).

Almost 8,000 additional residents have already registered, and Tallinn estimates that these registrations already have a significant impact on its tax base.

In addition to providing mobility to unemployed and low-income residents, free public transport has brought new passenger groups into the city centre in the evenings and weekends. This will boost the local economy, as these residents are likely to spend their free time and money consuming local goods and services.

To cope with the new demand, Tallinn has invested in 70 new buses and 15 new trams. It has also put into place a series of deterrents to private car use, including expansion of exclusive bus lanes barred for private vehicles and increased parking charges and expanded paid parking area.

Residents have welcomed the scheme, with a vote revealing 75% of the city’s population supports the initiative.

One resident explains:
“Free public transport is good. People will have more possibilities to travel around and if it improves city traffic, then I’m all for it!”

So far, the largest European city to introduce free public transport was the Aubagne urban district in southern France, home to some 100,000 inhabitants. (Also Hasselt city in Belgium. Ed)

Some Tallinn residents are concerned as to whether the city will be able to maintain the quality of the network, but it has certainly proven popular so far!

Find out more and view a video on the initiative here:

Posted 18/02/13 on EuroCities website:   

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