Free public transit is one of those good ideas that has been buzzing around for ages. Making transit free offers to strengthen cross connections in a community, reduce carbon footprints by cutting down on driving, gives low income people a break and is sought as a healthy and powerful stimulant to local economies.
Until now, only smaller scale or temporary experiments with fare-free transit have been undertaken. The first place to really go big is Tallinn, the capital of Estonia with about 430,000 people. All registered residents of Tallinn have had access to free public transit for a year now.
Critics and enthusiasts of the scheme have both had to temper their initial predictions of what would happen when Tallinna Transport went fare-free. Predictions of everything from the unemployed colonizing buses all day to radical reductions in auto traffic on major arteries were made. The real world effects appear less dramatic but are encouraging to those advocating an enhanced role for public transit. Apparently transit managers and city planners all over the world are beginning to watch this experiment with great interest.
Tallinn free public transport
tallinn.ee – English-language material & links
The Largest Free Mass Transit Experiment in the World
image: composite via Wikimedia Commons