In early 2013, the local municipality in Tallinn, Estonia, made public transportation free for all of the city’s residents.
It was called a populist stunt to sway voters, and a system that could not possibly sustain itself in the long run.
Three years later, however, and the city says that the free public transport project is still not costing them a thing. In fact, it’s been turning a profit of 20 million EUR per year.
The idea of city-wide free public transportation has also been proposed in Prague. Two years ago, it was a major topic during local elections, though little progress has been made since then.
But with word of success in Tallinn, local politicians are once again raising the issue.
“We would like the city to examine the impacts of this step as soon as possible,” said Mikuláš Ferjenčík, councilor for the local Pirate party, as reported by iDnes.cz.
“It’s necessary to find out whether the current capacity of the network is sufficient for this kind of discount, to count the costs and profits, and whether this is worth limiting further investments.”
But local critics say that the system isn’t sustainable – especially in a larger city, such as the Czech capital, which has more than double the population of Tallinn.
And they’re quick to point out that public transport in Prague already comes at a discount, especially compared to other European capitals.
“I dare say that [Prague public transportation] is already among the cheapest in Europe,” said ROPID spokesperson Filip Drápal.
Last year, Prague lowered the cost of a yearly public transport pass to 3650 CZK. That’s less than the cost of a monthly public transport card in cities like London or Copenhagen, for example.
Part of the success in Tallinn has been attracting locals to formally register as a resident in order to be eligible for the free public transport, which can be had for a mere 2 EUR card. More residents means more tax money going to the city – but may also take away from neighboring boroughs.
While the idea of free public transportation in Prague may not be on the horizon, it’s been working in at least one other Czech city for years. Residents of Frýdek-Místek have been enjoying free buses, which include routes to surrounding villages, since 2011.