Estonia already offers free WiFi. Next up: free public transit

The mayor of Tallinn hopes to make the city ‘the flagship of the green movement in Europe’

Estonians already enjoy free, country-wide WiFi. Now their capital, Tallinn, plans to become the first city in Europe to offer free public transit. Starting next year, the $2 fare for the city’s buses and streetcars will be scrapped. The mayor of the city of 400,000, Edgar Savisaar, is optimistic the free ride will get people out of their cars and help make Tallinn the “flagship of the green movement in Europe.”

Savisaar announced the plan after a March referendum showed 75 per cent support for the idea. But not everyone is sold. Only 20 per cent of Tallinn’s citizens voted in the poll, critics say, and it is unclear how the city will make up for the lost ticket revenue, which represents a third of the transit system’s funding. Even a Green party member is skeptical: “I would love to not pay for the services I consume,” Valdur Lahtvee told the BBC, but he worries the quality of the service will plummet, and send people back to their cars. Other politicians accuse the mayor of trying to build popularity for the Centre party, which he leads.

Perhaps Estonia is simply a giving nation. The world’s first free Skype video chat booth, offering unlimited, worldwide video calls, recently opened in Tallinn’s main airport.

Looking for more?

Get the Best of Maclean's sent straight to your inbox. Sign up for news, commentary and analysis.