Tallinn hosts conference on free public transport23.08.2013, 16:12
Tallinn City Government is currently hosting an international conference on free public transport, writes ERR.
In his speech, Mayor of Tallinn Edgar Savisaar claimed that free public transport has increased employment in Tallinn since free public transport has made people more mobile.
Without naming the source of data, Savisaar claimed that the number of public transport users was up by 25% and that the percentage of motorists has fallen to 9%.
Savisaar also left the conference shortly after his speech so that no-one was able to ask any questions from him.
In his speech he ignored a recent study made by Swedish expert Oded Cats who claims that according to three-month data of automatic meters installed in some Tallinn bus lines showed that the number of public transport use had increased 3% in a year.
Cats attributed 1.2% of the growth to free transport and 2.8% to designating bus lanes and making timetables better.
In his speech, Cats emphasised that the study was not commissioned by the City of Tallinn and that there had been no pressure. “We don’t have a contract, Tallinn is not funding our study,” said the researcher, adding that it was clear that the Tallinn experiment had political ambitions.
Cats said that although growth in transport use had been modest, it takes time for people to change their movement habits.
Secondly, historically Tallinn has high percentage of public transport users at about 40% which means that even small growth is important.
A representative of Hasselt, a small town in Belgium that introduced free public transport already in 1997 said that the town is now going back to paid public transport.
Mark Verachtert from Hasselt said that the main reason was cost.
Although in 16 years, the number of passengers increased 12 times, also expenses increased: while the service cost 275,000 euros to maintain in 1997, the cost in 2013 is already 1.8 million euros.
“While 16% of motorists opted for a bus, also 12% of bicycle riders and 9% of pedestrians did so. This is something that must not be ignored” he said.