As previously documented on World Streets the city of Tallinn, Estonia implemented Free Fare Public Transportation (FFPT) in January of 2013 for all registered citizens of the city. A year and a half into this policy voices from politicians, the media and academia presented an array of opinions in favour of, and refuting benefits of the policy. Thus in May of 2014 I visited Tallinn to conduct interviews with City staff, independent environmentalist consultants and academics alike for my master’s thesis in Urban and Regional Planning Studies at the London School of Economics. My research question was ‘Is Tallinn, Estonia’s free fare public transportation policy meeting its claimed motives as stated by the city’s municipal leaders?’
– By Reiner Kravis. Master’s candidate in Urban Planning Studies, London School of Economics
This question was asked to allow for space and analysis of the claims made by those who implemented the policy, and those less heard opinions, voicing counterclaims of supposed benefits the policy has created in the realms of modal shift, congestion, increased public spending and more. Tallinn City officials from the Mayor to other notable personalities have shown a list of eleven supposed justifications/benefits of the policy at various conferences. Thus these eleven justifications were analysed in my work
The eleven stated policy motivations
Following FFPT’s implementation on January 1, 2013, city officials such as the Mayor and Deputy Mayor have stated and presented eleven motivations for the implementation of the scheme at conferences and public seminars under the title “Why did we do it?”(Aas, 2013; Savisaar, 2013) (Appendix 8.1). The motives, or aspects as they are labelled in the politician’s presentations, fit into four categories:
- Guaranteeing mobility for unemployed and low income residents
- Using (Public Transit) facilities sharing common space for different segments of society
- Increasing labour mobility in the city limits
- Stimulating consumer activity
- Savings from public transport are spent on local goods and services
- Modal shift from cars to (Public Transit)
- Cleaner air
- Less noise
- More urban space
- Strong motivation to register place of residence
- Increases personal income tax (for city coffers)
On the surface this is a policy with altruistic motivations and the public in mind. While this is to some extent true, it has been shown through the ideas of public choice theory and fieldwork interviews that FFPT in Tallinn was primarily a political maneuver. The implementation of the policy 10 months before municipal elections was no coincidence. It was wrapped up nicely for the public to choose and has played into the city’s image building and international promotion. Meanwhile, alternative solutions have been largely ignored that are much more cost effective and already occurring.”
From the Report Conclusions
After analysing the literature of FFPT it can be said that the claimed technical justifications of this policy over a year and a half after its inception do not add up.
Thus one must ask why enact this policy in the first place? The answer lies in unstated political motivations. On the surface this is a policy with altruistic motivations and the public in mind. While this is to some extent true, it has been shown through the ideas of public choice theory and fieldwork interviews that FFPT in Tallinn was primarily done for the benefit of Edgar Savisaar’s political party and career. The implementation of the policy 10 months before municipal elections was no coincidence. It was wrapped up nicely for the public to choose and has played into the city’s image building and international promotion. Meanwhile, alternative solutions have been largely ignored that are much more cost effective and already occurring. Thus FFPT in Tallinn has not met the majority of its claimed motivations as these largely were not the real motivations for the policy in the first place.
As with many topics and questions in academia there is often not a yes/no answer, but rather a conclusion that lies somewhere in-between. This was the case in my research that found that the policy has indeed met some justifications such as enhancing mobility for all Tallinners. But overall the policy has failed in other areas where previous examples of FFPT and academic reports, discussed in further detail in my thesis, had proven that the policy would not work. Thus why did the City implement this policy in the first place? A large consideration were municipal elections in October 2013, as well as city image and marketing, after all if not for the municipalities attempt at FFPT we would not be talking about the policy right now.
– – – > For the full report: https://worldstreets.files.wordpress.com/2014/09/ffpt-in-tallinn-reiner-kravis.docx
About the author:
Reiner Kravis is a master’s candidate in Regional and Urban Planning Studies at the London School of Economics and Political Science. If you have any comments of questions feel free to contact me. I can be reached at R.Kravis@lse.ac.uk
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Bio: Trained as a development economist, Eric Britton is a public entrepreneur specializing in the field of sustainability and social justice. Professor of Sustainable Development, Economy and Democracy at the Institut Supérieur de Gestion (Paris), he is also MD of EcoPlan Association, an independent advisory network providing strategic counsel for government and business on policy and decision issues involving complex systems, social-technical change and sustainable development. Founding editor of World Streets, his latest work focuses on the subject of equity, economy and efficiency in city transport and public space, and helping governments to ask the right questions and in the process, find practical solutions to urgent climate, mobility, life quality and job creation issues. Currently working on an open collaborative project, “BETTER CHOICES: Bringing Sustainable Transportation to Smaller Asian Cities” . More at: http://wp.me/PsKUY-2p7 * This article is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 licence.