The prospects of fare-free public transport: evidence from Tallinn

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

place - europe, ridership - attitudes, ridership - mode choice, ridership - behaviour, ridership - growth, planning - surveys, planning - service level, economics - subsidy, economics - pricing


Pricing policy, Free public transport, Travel behaviour, Mode split


The subsidy level of public transport systems varies considerably among systems worldwide. While limited-scale free-fare public transport (FFPT) services such as limited campaigns and fare evasion for special groups or specific services are prevalent, there is only limited evidence on the consequences of introducing a full-fledged FFPT. The case of Tallinn, Estonia offers a full-scale experiment that provides a unique opportunity to investigate the impacts of FFPT. This study examines travel pattern changes based on individual travel habit survey shortly before and almost 1 year after the introduction of FFPT policy in Tallinn based on interviews and travel diaries of a random sample of 1500 household. We analyse modal shift effects and whether they are driven by trip generation or trip substitution, travel attitudes and satisfactions as well as impacts on equity, employment prospects, and trip destination choices. Almost a year after the introduction of FFPT, public transport usage increased by 14 % and there is evidence that the mobility of low-income residents has improved. The effect of FFPT on ridership is substantially lower than those reported in previous studies due to the good level of service provision, high public transport usage and low public transport fees that existed already prior to the FFPT.


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