This 1 July 2018, Estonia becomes the first country in the World to introduce free public transport in most of the nation.
Estonia has 15 counties of which 11 have agreed to offer free public transport for its residents. The project was first launched in Tallinn five years ago, its success has led other countries in the EU and around the World to take a look at the idea.
Despite having neo-liberal governments for over 30 years, Estonian coalition government set up public transport centres as public bodies to run bus services in the regions.
Kadri Simson, minister for economic and infrastructure affairs, explained the government left the decision as to whether to move over to zero ticketing to local authorities. This is a concept known as subsidiary, meaning decisions where possible should be decided at a local level. This is one of the guiding principles of the European Union.
“What is most important is that public transport centres are authorised; that they determine where buses drive and at what time,” Simson said.
“If local government transport centre wants to continue with the current system, that opportunity has been created.
“The ministry will not interfere. This is an area of responsibility for public transport centre and I believe local people know better what they want,” Simson added.
Public bus transport will be free in Valga, Võru, Põlva, Järva, Jõgeva, Tartu, Ida-Viru, Hiiu and Saare municipalities as well as on routes operated by the non-profit North-Estonia Public Transport Centre in West county.
Anybody can use these buses without needing to live in the area. As in Tallinn, the passenger will have to register their ride on a special public transport non-personalised card, so the bus lines can keep data as to which lines and times are popular.
In Tallinn, free public transport was introduced on 1 January 2013. At the time, out of a city budget of 53 million euro, revenues of 17 million came from tickets sale. The introduction of free public transport meant in 2014 an additional 18,000 people opted to become taxpayers in Tallinn meaning any loss in income was covered by additional tax income.
The same principle does not apply in the countryside. The hope is free public transport will prevent people from leaving. The driving force behind free public transport is increased mobility for citizens and easier access to places of work.
The Estonian government has set aside 3.3 million Euros for counties to consolidate their bus lines, order new stock where necessary and improve services. This money is available to local transport centres whether they choose to stay with the current system, reduce fares or scrap them all together.
Mayors of Baltic capitals celebrate 100 years of independence together
In June 2018, the mayors of Tallinn, Riga and Vilnius, got together to celebrate the birthdays of all three Baltic nations.
The three-way meeting between Taavi Aas, Tallinn, Nils Usakovs, Riga, and Remigijus Simasius, Vilnius, was a continuation from the mayoral get together on 15 May in Tallinn, where the city leaders discussed important issues such as transport organisation, city development projects and investment and finance in the context of the ongoing EU financial period.
“Whilst we are on the management board of the most important organisation for big cities EUROCITIES, Tallinn has a chance to develop cities politically and represent the neighbouring capital cities,” Tavi Aas said.
“For example, for all three capital cities an important theme is increasing city rights to decide how to divide regional development funds to support the development of citizens in districts,” Aas added after the meeting.
“Tallinn, Riga, and Vilnius city official and civil servant have a long-time experience of co-operation and exchange in the fields of urban living, residential and communal economics, IT and e-solution, administrative and financial issues, public transport and environment service, not to speak of culture and sport. It pleases me that now in the new season we have dialogue at a political level,” Tallinn’s mayor added.
After lunch, the mayors placed garlands of flowers in the colours of the national flags at the foot of the Cross of Liberty and the Monument to the War of Independence on Freedom Square.
In the evening, the mayors listened to the Latvian 100 years celebratory concert series “Born in Latvia” which was headlined by Latvian-born Vienna philharmonic orchestra mezzo-soprano Elin Garanca.
The next meeting of the mayors will take place at the beginning of September in Vilnius.
Kadriorg Park celebrates 300 years
Kadriorg Park, the park Peter the Great of Russia built for love, celebrates its 300th anniversary this year with a jubilee gala where visitors can hear opera and ballet music through three centuries.
The main event takes place 22 July which is the exact day when architect Niccolo Michetti measured the grounds of Kadriorg castle and planned the gardens. The birthday celebration takes place between 12 and 17.30 in the park and castle and at 16:00 a big gala concert Kadriorg 300 will start.
Caspar Lootsmann, the principal organiser, said that the concert main shows are the Estonian-wide young symphony orchestra (ÜENSO) directed by Jüri-Ruut Kangur, singers Elina Nechayeva and Kalle Sepa and cellist Andreas Lend.
“The jubilee’s oeuvre is based on classical music and celebrates the history of Kadriorg,” Lootman said.
“In the two-part concert, you can listen to classical music from 300 years of history.”
The celebration of Kadriorg 300 years goes on until 25 November, here are some of the highlights.
17.-23. July the highly anticipated show “a hundred Estonian roses” is a chance to enjoy not only the roses grown on Kadriorg rose mountain but also blooms from all over Estonia. The show’s curator is rose club leader Rein Joost.
19 September in the evening there will be a screening of the documentary film program “Kumu documentary” in the context of Jaak Lõhmus’s talk in the park “Kadriorg 300” Celebrations will take place for 19-20 September festival “A light walks in Kadriorg”
Kadriorg is Tallinn’s most famous city park. It was built for and named after Peter the Great for his beloved wife Tsarina Catherine, who later became Catherine I of Russia in her own right.
The Park hosts many historical building, two art galleries, the presidential palace and even Japanese landscaped gardens.