Is free public transport in Estonia a good idea?

As of July 1 public transport with buses and trains has been free of charge. The policy, which has been in effect in Tallinn since 2013, has now been extended to the rest of the country, with the exception of four rural districts. According to Estonia's minister of economic affairs Kadri Simson free transport will make it easier for people with low and average incomes to remain mobile. Estonia's press isn't convinced.

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Õhtuleht (EE) /

Wasted money

For Õhtuleht free public transport in Estonia is nothing but an expensive gift to voters:

“The Minister of Economic Affairs Kadri Simson, in whose election campaign passengers unknowingly participated, has the most reason to rejoice. And she needn't worry about the four regions that have yet to introduce free public transport because now that it already applies in most places we can imagine how great the pressure on these last four will be to adopt the model. Critics will only be heeded once a sufficient number of people realise that the scheme isn't worth the millions that are being wasted on it: the timetables continue to be irregular, the stops are still too far away from home and the buses are crowded.”

Postimees (EE) /

No such thing as a free bus

Postimees also argues that the money for free public transport could be better spend on other projects:

“It's true that certain people in need can benefit from this. But it also means that a number of more sensible investments won't take place. We have already pointed out that the experts don't approve of the idea and that people in rural areas would benefit more from more regular services and better roads. We believe that future governments will no longer dare touch this populist initiative. The political culture has once again suffered and that's a bad thing. Because although the minister's idea is out of touch with reality she has managed to push it through by using tricks. ... There will be elections next year and the politicians once again need to win the votes of those who still believe in the myth about getting things for free.”