Decrypting Fare-Free Public Transport in Tallinn, Estonia
Among many possible interventions in public transport finance and policy designed to enhance the attractiveness of riding public transport, one of the most extreme, which is seldom implemented, is the elimination of passenger fares, effectively making public transport “free” for riders (with operating costs paid from other funding sources). This article describes a fare-free public transport program in Tallinn, Estonia, launched in 2013, which has exhibited lower-than-expected increases in ridership. Evaluations of Tallinn’s fare-free public transport program are presented and synthesized, with a focus on program goals and how goals are met through program performance. Findings suggest certain flaws limit the program’s potential success since the program design is misaligned with its primary stated goals, and several program goals relating to external effects of fare reform cannot be evaluated. Although it would be valuable for transport managers in other cities to learn about this experience, the Tallinn fare-free public transport program provides scant transferable evidence about how such a program can operate outside of a politicized context, which was crucial to its implementation in Estonia.
Revisiting the role of architects in planning large-scale housing in the USSR: the birth of socialist residential districts in Tallinn, Estonia, 1957–1979 (2017).
In Central and Eastern Europe and the Former Soviet Union, housing estates are often associated with inhumane architecture and unwelcoming public space, an outcome that can be attributed to strict design requirements in a rigid centralized system. Due to the uniformity of residential housing produced during socialist times, both the design process and its master – the architect – are believed to have played only minor roles in shaping townscapes. This study, situated in the large housing estates of Tallinn, Estonia, challenges these assumptions using analyses of archival material (relating to planning procedures during state socialism) and articles in specialized magazines. The study also explains – through first-hand interviews with senior architects who were key players in building socialist cities – the relations between Soviet regulations and vital elements of the city-building process, including creativity, power, and artistry. Analysis of primary source materials highlights an oversimplification of socialist modernism, which suggests more nuanced explanations for town planning outcomes. Findings suggest that regulations issued in Moscow for Union of Soviet Socialist Republic-wide planning played a less important role than previously assumed in town planning outcomes in Estonia. International modernist city planning ideals, combined with local expertise, strongly influenced town planning practice in the Soviet ‘West’.
Transport in Mikrorayons: Accessibility and Proximity to Centrally Planned Residential Districts during the Socialist Era, 1957-1989 (2017).
Residential housing compounds known as mikrorayons were enclosed within vast housing estates and served as central features of socialist urbanism in the Eastern Bloc. To reduce daily travel, designers located the communities on well-considered metropolitan sites and proposed embedded commercial opportunities and community services. This article examines, twenty-five years after the disintegration of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), the vision and implementation of transport planning in these modernist residential districts. A novel source of information is a rich literature, published during the operative years of the USSR, which explains and promotes contemporaneous socialist urbanization. This literature is enhanced with subsequently published critique and commentary to explore commuting, mobility, and transport-land use interaction vis-a`-vis the legacy of central planning for housing estates. Findings suggest that various elements of built environments that were vital to access and mobility significantly lagged the timing, quality, and completeness of housing construction. The Soviet system substituted proximity for mobility in certain aspects of urban life, but incomplete service networks in residential districts meant that the promises of propinquity were unrealized.
Effects of Public Perception on Urban Planning: Evolution of an Inclusive Planning System During Crises in Latvia (2016, forthcoming). With Māra Liepa-Zemeša.
Abstract: This article explores changes in public perception of urban planning practice in Latvia during a period of economic crisis. Detailed analyses of the development of the planning systems in Latvia after the disintegration of the Soviet Union and restoration of independence (in 1991) are used to trace changes in public perception of urban planning over two decades during both economic upturns and downturns, beginning with the transition period from centralised planning during the totalitarian era to an inclusive planning system in a democratic society. Economic data describing the crisis and survey data gauging public reaction to them are used to synthesise evidence about public participation in urban planning exercises. Findings suggest that external factors strongly impact community perceptions of planning and that the public is willing to engage after first achieving individual goals. Events in Latvia in recent years suggest that crises serve as triggers for community engagement in planning and turning points in public perception of urban planning.
Preferences Towards Neighbor Ethnicity and Affluence: Evidence from an Inherited Dual Ethnic Context in Post-Soviet Tartu, Estonia (2015). With Kadri Leetmaa and Tiit Tammaru.
Abstract: In the post-Soviet era, cities in Central and Eastern Europe inherited a rather undifferentiated sociospatial urban landscape that contrasts with the highly segregated cities in Western Europe and North America. In the Soviet era, ethnic segregation emerged as migrants were prioritized in public housing allocation. The dissolu- tion of the Soviet Union, however, changed the economic and political position of those in-migrants. This study explores how inherited segregation patterns have evolved in the city of Tartu, Estonia. We use data from (1) 1998, 2008, and 2013 municipal surveys about stated preferences with regard to residential settings for the two main ethno-linguistic groups in Estonia (the Estonian majority and the mainly Russian-speaking minority population), and (2) the 2000 and 2011 national census that allows us to track changes in actual segregation patterns. We study two dimensions of preferences and segregation—ethnicity and neighbor affluence—and apply bivariate probit regression for the analysis of stated preferences. We detect a stronger preference among the majority population to live in its own language environment compared to minorities. Minority avoidance attitudes were strongest immediately after the collapse of the Soviet Union and restoration of Estonia’s statehood; by the end of the 2000s the preferences of the two groups toward neighbor ethnicity converged. Members of the majority population, however, prefer affluent environments more than minorities do. Despite converging preferences, the actual levels of segregation have increased in Tartu. This suggests that socioeco- nomic differences drive patterns of ethnic segregation even when preferences with regard to ethnicity have become more tolerant.
Preservation by Neglect in Soviet-Era Town Planning in Tartu, Estonia (2014). With Mart Hiob.
Abstract: In the former Soviet Union, traditional urban districts with pre–World War II housing were con- sidered obsolete and the aim was to demolish them, but in practice they were frequently ignored, because efforts were focused on new housing production in order to address acute housing shortages. Inertial forces stymied plan implementation for older districts during a rich period of plan making while new residential districts were built at a fast pace on virgin land. This research analyzes more than a dozen written planning documents from various periods during the twentieth century for Tartu, Estonia, where, had mid-twentieth century town plans been implemented, entire districts of nineteenth-century and early twentieth-century wooden houses and apartment buildings would have been demolished. Findings suggest that several factors acted in concert to set the conditions for both neglect and preservation of such districts during the second half of the twentieth century that resulted in continuous occupancy of the dwellings and preserved the built form (and the social struc- ture) of the district. These factors include a focus on building new housing and new districts rather than renovating older districts; a lack of resources to renovate older districts; and a lack of resources to implement plans. This synthesis of town planning in Estonia demonstrates how planning ideas have evolved throughout the twentieth century parallel to—but temporally delayed compared to—Western Europe and North America.
Ethnic Difference in Housing in post-Soviet Tartu, Estonia (2012). With Tiit Tammaru and Kadri Leetmaa.
Abstract: Social and ethnic stratification has changed significantly in the former Soviet space since 1991. This research analyses the evolution of inherited ethnic differences in housing during two post-Soviet decades in Tartu, Estonia. The results suggest that ethnic inequalities in dwelling type as well as in housing size per person decreased between 1989 and 2008. More minorities now occupy single-family houses than at the end of the Soviet period. Access to modern facilities within dwelling units, however, is still higher among the minority population. We conclude that inherited ethnic differences in housing conditions were pronounced and, despite evidence of decreasing housing inequalities, subsequent changes have been too modest to overcome inherited patterns of housing segmentation from the Soviet period.
Transformation of the Built Environment in Estonia: New Perspectives about the Here and Now (2011).
Abstract: Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the establishment of independence of the Baltic States in 1991, the Republic of Estonia has experienced sweeping social changes and fundamental shifts in its government and economy. The centrally planned economic system has been replaced with a market economy, and Estoniaʼs membership in the European Union increases cross-border connection and trans-national synergy. Government policy and local infrastructure—formerly developed and controlled under centralized policy constraints—have undergone significant geopolitical changes in recent years, which are reflected in metropolitan spatial structure and the design, construction, and use of the built environment.
Early 20th-Century Tenement Buildings in Estonia: Building Blocks for Neighborhood Longevity.
Abstract: During the early 20th century, the urban housing supply in Estonia expanded quickly to meet growing housing demand, resulting in tenement districts conceived for maximum profitability of rental units. In Karlova, a district near the city center of Tartu, about five hundred wooden houses, built between 1911 and the early 1920s and displaying simple Art Nouveau details, are set amid a charming district with a distinct milieu. This article focuses on three time periods during which the development of its built environment gave Karlova its distinctiveness: (1) the years leading up to World War I; (2) the interwar period; and (3) the two decades since 1991, or the post-transition period. Although the district was neglected during the Soviet era, it remains remarkably intact and has even experienced, since the 1990s, gentrification. The high-quality housing stock and charming built environment has much to offer to its diverse population of students, professionals, families, and longtime residents.
Naabrite Rahvuse ja Jõukusega Seotud Elukohaeelistused Tartus (2014). With Kadri Leetmaa, Tiit Tammaru, and Kadi Mägi.
Abstract: In the post-Soviet era, cities in Central and Eastern Europe inherited a rather undifferentiated sociospatial urban landscape. The former Soviet republics, however, inherited high levels of ethnic segregation. This study explores how inherited segregation patterns have evolved in the city of Tartu, Estonia. We use data from (a) 1998, 2008, and 2013 municipal surveys about stated preferences with regard to residential settings for the two main ethno-linguistic groups in Estonia, and (b) the 2000 and 2011 national census that allows us to track changes in actual segregation patterns. We study two dimensions of preference and segregation: ethnicity and neighbor affluence. We have detected stronger preference among the majority population to live in its own-language environment compared to the minority. Minority avoidance attitudes were strongest immediately after the collapse of the Soviet Union; by the end of the 2000s the two groups’ preferences towards neighbor ethnicity converged. Members of the majority population, however, prefer affluent environments more than the minority. Despite the con- verging preferences, the actual levels of segregation have increased in Tartu. This suggests that socioeconomic differences drive patterns of ethnic segregation even when preferences with regard to ethnicity have become more tolerant.
Talking Ruins: The Legacy of Baroque Garden Design in Manor Parks of Estonia (2012). With Sulev Nurme, Nele Nutt, and Mart Hiob.
Abstract: The late 19th-century and early 20th-century grand era of manor parks in Estonia coincides with a period when English gardening ideas dominated Europe. What is less recognized, however, is that manors in Estonia possess formal French-inspired gardens dating from the mid-18th century (the introduction of Baroque design in Estonia was delayed). Today, about 600 complete manor ensembles remain, retaining distinctive structural characteristics which date from the 18th to 19th centuries. It is quite typical that in old parks of Estonia, Baroque and English garden styles have merged, giving them a unique and original character. This research reports on archival study, field investigation, and may analyses of 45 protected manor parks in Estonia. The analysis suggests that, despite the relatively short period (ca. 1730 – 1770), formal Baroque gardening was the dominant style practised in Estonia. The movement had a significant influence on local garden design and on landscape planning more broadly.The Baroque elements in manor lands include formal geometric spaces, axial connections between landscape and buildings, orchestrated vistas, and tree-lined roadways. Within the Baroque garden, formal plantings, pathways, and water features were arranged in classical configurations. Finding physical traces of Baroque artifacts today is difficult because manor parks were distracted during the Soviet era in the latter half of the 20th century. Nevertheless, archival materials and present-day visit to garden ruins in manor parks suggest that formal Baroque gardens dating from mid 18th-century manor lands were vivid and sophisticated ensembles of formal terrain, tree allées, sculptural elements and finely orchestrated water elements.