Public transport should be free in Helsinki region, according to 59 percent of the respondents of a survey by Finnish newspaper Helsingin Sanomat. The respondents, a total of 1,059, were from Helsinki, Espoo and Vantaa areas.
Free public transport is currently in use, for example, across the bay, in Tallinn. After the city started to offer a free service for its citizens in 2013, it has made a profit of about 13 to 18 million euros because of the influx of new inhabitants; 25,000-30,000 people have moved to the Estonian capital after the public transport became gratis. According to the local authorities, each new citizen brings in about 1,000 euros in municipal taxes.
In Finland, the local authorities are not warming on the idea of costless transport. According to HSL (Helsinki Regional Transport Authority) CEO Suvi Rihtniemi, the transport systems of Tallinn and Helsinki are incomparable. Because of the size of traffic.
HSL collected about 310 million euros in ticket revenue for public transport in 2015 from which Helsinki’s share was 180 million euros – ten times more than in Tallinn before the transport became free.
According to Rihtniemi, Tallinn is trying to feed its citizens a tax carrot: the people who live in Tallinn but are paying their taxes elsewhere are attracted to pay their taxes to the capital. “In our country a tax carrot like this wouldn’t work because almost all of our clients are registered here (in Helsinki region),” Rihtniemi said.
In practice, the costs of free transport services would have to be gathered in taxes in Helsinki. The municipal tax in Helsinki is currently 18.5 percent, which means that the city would have to raise the tax by one percentage point. One percentage point produces about 135 million euros.
“The current ratio, where the users (of the public transport) pay half and the municipality pays half (in the form of tickets), is pretty good,” Rihtniemi said.