TALLINN - A soon-to-be-implemented policy in Estonia's capital that will make nonresidents of the city pay more for public transportation and parking has Estonians rushing to register themselves as Tallinn residents and administrations of nearby towns feeling offended.Starting March 2004 registered Tallinn residents will pay roughly the same prices for public transportation while nonresidents will have to pay up nearly double. The same changes may be introduced in the parking regulations as well.
Tallinn is located in Harju county, but because of its size it is an independent administrative unit.
The new public transportation ticket system will be based on Estonian ID cards, which have a chip that stores information on the holder. When buying monthly tickets, consumers will have confirmation of their purchases and ticket details stored on their ID cards.
According to the city government, there are 392,306 residents in Tallinn as of December 2003, and by Jan. 12 110,998 of them had the electronic ID cards that effectively double as passports within Estonia.
But a legal battle is brewing over the policy. Municipal heads in Harju county addressed the legal chancellor on Jan. 13 and the chairman of the Harju county government to find out if Tallinn's service discount campaigns are justified.
Furthermore, some of the county districts are planning countermeasures against the residents of the capital, including paid access to tourist attractions or road fees.
Andre Sepp, chairman of the Harju County Local Governments Union and head of the Raasiku county government, said another potential countermeasure would be a higher land tax for Tallinn residents who own summer houses in the county.
"But all those ideas will not really work. If the legal chancellor does not satisfy our complaint, the county districts will have to pay Tallinn to avoid the price hike for county people," Sepp said.
"However, it is unjust that Tallinn wants to subsidize its public transportation system on account of non-Tallinners," he added.
Sepp said he hoped the legal chancellor would find Tallinn's initiative unjustified.
"Everywhere in the world public transportation in cities is subsidized because it just does not pay off," Sepp said.
In Stockholm and the outlying region the transportation system is paid by the government of Sweden, and the city and other administrative units have to compensate a certain part of that according to the number of residents, he added.