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International transportation conference held in Tallinn hosted entrepreneurs from 8 countries.

13 May, at the public transportation conference "Common Transportation – from Need-Based to Enjoyable" held at KUMU, experts from eight countries discussed whether public transportation is a social or commercial service.

The main question highlighted at the conference was the opposition of bus transportation based on state subsidies and private capital, and future. In the opening speech, Kaja Kallas, Member of the Parliament, focussed also on the issue of free public transportation in Tallinn. "Free public transportation is an intriguing experiment, but at the moment the figures do not show if people will give up using cars," she said.
Kallas also introduced the Public Transportation Act currently discussed at the parliament, which would end the supplementary benefits on lines subsidised by the state. "Regarding the amendment, it is crucial that the benefits would follow public interest and demand. Larger benefits cannot be granted only because people are residents of some specific area," said Kallas. "It would be justified if these residents needed some additional help, for instance, people living on the islands who need to cross the water. But do the citizens of Tallinn have any such obstacles?" asked Kallas.

Taxi service instead of bus.

Lauri Lugna, Deputy Director General of Public Transportation, also said that it is definitely not possible to increase the subsidies but growth in prices is more thank likely to happen. "There are lines with very little demand, what is their future like? It is ordering on to demand, or taxi service, which exists in other countries, too," said Lugna, introducing a new option that the Estonian Road Administration has also considered: to offer a taxi service in addition to/instead of regular bus service.

Robert Sahlberg, Business Manager at one of the largest bus companies in Sweden, Karlstadbuss, stressed that consuming public transportation has to be fun and simple. "In some sense we are talking about social barriers that people have to cross when exchanging their cars for buses. Because we see celebrities in their fancy cars and not waiting at the bus stops," he said. According to Sahlberg, Karlstadbuss has managed to cross that barrier because the number of public transportation users has increased by more than 65 percent in the last five years.

Estonians enjoy riding in cars with families.

To support the business model of Sahlberg and make the public transportation more fun for people, the conference presented the survey with nearly 1200 respondents from Estonia conducted by the students of TTK University of Applied Sciences. The survey revealed that Estonian people do not generally walk. Slightly more than a third of the respondents use public transportation while 38% prefer using cars for everyday rides. 42% of Estonian residents are serious car-people who usually drive alone or with one other person. 69% of Estonian residents are passionate drivers who simply love driving. As a bonus they stress the option to communicate with the family at the same time.

The conference focussed on bus transportation in Estonia and abroad. Participants were transportation entrepreneurs from Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Russia, Finland, Sweden, Norway and Spain. The main goal was to reach, via discussion, from the social image of public transportation to a common enjoyable transportation service where all citizens, by using the common transportation, contribute into developing of movement and its financing.

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