Taavi Aas, deputy Mayor of Tallinn, and Mayor Lars Isacsson, Mayor of Avesta, signed a memorandum in Avesta on the 17th of september, which allows mutual free public transport for the citizens of both cities. Both cities are inviting other cities with free public transport to join the network established by this agreement
According to Taavi Aas, the agreement is important to improve relations between cities with free public transport. Aas added: “an international network of free public transport supports tourism mutually and at the same time distributes the idea of free transport.”
In an interview of Tallinn Television with the mayor of Avesta, Lars Isacsson told, that during the Swedish municipal elections in 2010, political parties promised a variety of solutions for public transport in Avesta. The primary alternative was for everybody to pay for the bus tickets. This system would have cost more than 2.5 million Euros per year. The second possibility was to provide free transport to children and youths during the whole year. This would have cost 3.4 million Euros. The third possibility was free transport for everybody, which after assessment of all the costs and revenues surprisingly turned out to be the cheapest version - approximately 2.5 million Euros per year.
According to Isacsson, different alternatives for public transport were considered after the elections. “The best solution was to provide free transport for everybody. The reasoning was that the income from ticket sales was same as the administration costs of a ticket system. With an increase of the population in Avesta, more funds will be collected by the city treasury and after a very long time, there is no need to cut expenditures - we can increase expenditures on schools and the elderly because the budget increased by 30.7 million Euros,” stated the Mayor of Avesta, adding, that at first they were afraid of buses being used minimally, but when seeing the opposite, they feared that the buses would be overcrowded. The two primary fears were replaced by a third one - the buses are extremely popular, they drive and wear more, but this is the reason why public transport is being funded.
When talking about the importance of free public transport, Isacsson stressed that the use of public transport has increased two fold with an upward trend, meanwhile the use of cars has increase by 77 percent in a year. In addition, the emission of exhaust gases has decreased by 40 tons and there are no more traffic jams in the town.
Main interest of the mayors of Avesta is the fast increase of inhabitants in the town, which in turn would increase the attractiveness of the former industrial and current tourism city as a place to live and work. The future plans were introduced by Isacsson: “Our goal is the increase the population of Avesta from 22 to 25 thousand by 2020, create 350 new jobs and 20 new companies, which would be led by at least 15 women.”
Experts from 13 countries, including the capital of free public transport, Tallinn, and the Swedish hosts of the conference, talked about their successful adaptation of free public transport. Taavi Aas said that Tallinn intends to take a decisive step and change the public transport to be free of charge nationwide. The capital of Estonia has a goal, which states that all lines within a county should be free as in Tallinn. “There are no doubts in Tallinn regarding the necessity of a nationwide free public transport,” said Aas. “The socio-economic demand for free public transport in Estonia is substantially larger than in the capital and the support for mobility for everybody, regardless of their place of residence, is of vital importance to maintain a respectable lifestyle all over Estonia.”
Allan Alaküla, representative of Tallinn in the European Union, together with Revo Raudjärv, news anchor and special correspondent from the Tallinn Television, presented the documentary “Tallinn public transport” in the conference. The movie shows within an hour, where and how in the world free public transport has been established. According to Alaküla, the movie encourages new towns to review their ticket policies to find solutions in regard to socio-economic and environmental problems.
Tallinn was well received in the free public transport conference, because the free public transport system, implemented three years ago in the capital of Estonia, is an example creating an increasing amount of interest from cities all around the world.
The world’s largest city that offers free public transport to everybody is the city of Chengdu in China. In a city with a population of 16 million people, public transport is free for everybody from 5 to 7 AM, relieving the stress from traffic jams in the mornings. The world’s best-known city that provides free public transport is London, where public transport is free for all children up to 11 years of age. The environment aspect has been actively discussed, as for example Paris was forced to implement free public transport due to air pollution at some point. Also the social aspect is of importance, because many of the poor just can’t afford a daily bus ticket.