At today’s meeting with Edgar Savisaar, Mayor of Avesta Lars Isaksson from Sweden and Mayor of Zabki Robert Perkowski from Poland commended the efforts of their Tallinn colleague aimed at the implementation of free public transport nationwide. Avesta will be hosting the cities that have implemented fare free public transport this autumn.
The mayors who were invited to the 13th Local Government Forum as foreign experts emphasised during the meeting in Tallinn that Tallinn was extremely well received both in Sweden and Poland, because the free public transport system introduced in the Estonian capital almost two years ago was an excellent example in the entire world, where increasingly more cities are taking an interest in it.
Avesta, which has a population of 22 thousand, started with free public transport in July 2012 and by today, the number of passengers has doubled when compared to the time before fare free public transport became available. “One of our goals is to increase the town’s population to 25 thousand by 2020 with the help of free public transport and other public services. Last year we gained 50 new residents, so we’re well on the schedule we set for ourselves,” said Mayor Isaksson.
Mayor of Ząbki Robert Perkowski also highlighted the significant impact of fare free public transport on the number of a city’s residents. According to him, only half of the 60,000 people living in his town had registered themselves as residents, which meant that the tax revenue started to decrease. “The number of our town’s residents has certainly increased since the introduction of a free bus service for the official residents of Ząbki,” said Perkowski. “The town’s residents can use the free bus services with their Ząbki resident cards, which are like the Green Card used in Tallinn. The card also gives people discounts in swimming pools and other municipal establishments.”
The mayors of Avesta and Ząbki both admitted that back at home, they often hear the claims of sceptics that free public transport is only possible in larger cities, but impractical in small towns like theirs. “This is why the example of Tallinn, which is considerably larger than our towns, is particularly important for us,” said Isaksson and Perkowski. “It’s interesting that sceptics in Estonia are saying the exact opposite – we’re still hearing claims that Tallinn is too big for free public transport. When this happens, we use the city of Chengdu in China, which has a population of 14 million, as an example,” said Savisaar. He then emphasised the importance of contact between cities that have implemented fare free transport.
The Mayor of Tallinn added that all cities with fare free public transport share a common strength – they’re all the kind of friendly cities where people want to live. “Nationwide free public transport is in the interests of the survival of our countries and nations, and I can see that the will to do it already exists here in Estonia,” Savisaar told his guests. “All we need in this country is a new government that would immediately introduce free transport on all county routes and then do the same with passenger trains and the ferries that connect the islands with the mainland.”
An international conference on free public transport will be held in Avesta this autumn and Tallinn will also attend it. “Avesta will do its best to organise the conference,” said Isaksson. “We would like to receive more information about free public transport from across the world and promote our public transport cooperation with other local authorities, researchers and civil movements.”