Why I am going to vote against free public transport in my town

This week Tallinn holds a referendum on making public transport free for all residents. The costs to the city are expected to be 20 million Euros per year.

Those costs are where the problem starts, Tallinn is already the worst managed municipality in Estonia. It doesn't even manage to balance its budget right now. The extra 20 million Euros expense isn't going to help to straighten out the financial mess this town is in.

That can basically only lead to three things:
- increase the city's debts
- expenditure cuts in public transport
- expenditure cuts elsewhere

Since the free transport would only apply to residents, ticket control will continue, thus this project would not even reap the benefit of the cost reduction that could be achieved from abolishing that. With residents not buying tickets anymore, it's going to become more difficult for visitors - like tourists - to buy tickets, as you can expect that kiosks and shops will simply stop selling them due to lower demand.

More importantly though, in a city where streets are filled with potholes, where melt and rain water lingers around for days, where pedestrian crossings are nearly invisible, where kindergartens are falling apart, where trams are old and rusty, where bicycle roads are nearly non-existent, etc, etc, I'd say there is no shortage of things that are a little bit more important than making public transport free.

The extra expense of 20 million Euros is likely to result in cuts that will make fixing those problems even more difficult than it clearly already is, and since public transport itself won't earn the city any revenue, we can expect cuts there too, making the service even worse than it already is. Chasing more people out of public transport and in to their cars. Thus increase traffic jams and air pollution.

Let's fantasize for a moment that there would actually be a budget surplus of 20 million Euros to spend on public transport. Wouldn't investing it in improving public transport make a lot more sense?

As long as public transport is cheap, which it is here, price isn't going to be a factor in getting more people to use it. What is going to get more people to use public transport is better service.

How about improving public transport to the ever growing suburbs? How about extending the tramlines that still reach no further than they did before the second world war? How about extending the tramline to the airport? How about fixing the tracks, buying modern rolling stock and scrapping the old Soviet models?

The referendum is a scam, it's like asking people if they want to pay for their groceries. Well no who does? It fails to point out the real costs.

If you live in Tallinn please go vote and vote: EI (Estonian for NO).

List of voting points on the referendum "information" page: http://www.tallinn.ee/kysitlus/

ps. The "information" page isn't neutral, it contains propaganda in favor of this proposal but no space is given to opponents. Isn't that telling about how "democratic" this referendum is?
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