Public Transport Pricing Policy Empirical Evidence from a Fare-Free Scheme in Tallinn, Estonia

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

place - europe, infrastructure - bus/tram priority, operations - frequency, ridership - demand, economics - pricing, policy - social exclusion, policy - fares, policy - equity, planning - network design, ridership - mode choice


public transport, social inclusion, modal shift, fare-free public transport (FFPT), accessibility, passenger demand, service frequency


Cities worldwide are looking for new policies to attract travelers to shift from cars to public transport. Policies focused on reducing public transport fares are aimed at improving social inclusion and leading to a modal shift. The City of Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, has recently introduced a fare-free public transport (FFPT) service in an effort to improve accessibility and mobility for its residents. The case of Tallinn is a full-scale, real-world experiment that provides a unique opportunity for investigating the impacts of FFPT policy. A macrolevel empirical evaluation of FFPT impacts on service performance, passenger demand, and accessibility for various groups of travelers is presented. In contrast to previous studies, the influence of FFPT on passenger demand was estimated while changes in supply were controlled. The results indicate that the FFPT measure accounts for an increase of 1.2% in passenger demand, with the remaining increase attributed to an extended network of public transport priority lanes and increased service frequency. The relatively small effect could be attributed to the previous price level and public transport share as well as analysis of the short-term impact. The evidence-based policy evaluation in this paper is instrumental in supporting policy making and facilitating the design of public transport pricing strategies.


Permission to publish the abstract has been given by Transportation Research Board, Washington, copyright remains with them.