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Tallinn tram – how to proceed?

On August 24, 1888, the first tram – a horse-drawn carriage taking the townspeople to Kadriorg -went on the route in Tallinn. In the 132 years since this remarkable event, the tram business has undergone tremendous development. The era of the horse car was followed by the time of motor trams, which was soon replaced by the dominance of electric trams. The following important periods can be distinguished in the development of the tram infrastructure – the construction of the first horse-drawn tram lines, the construction of the Kopli tramway, and its connection to the city center tram network, and the development of modern tram infrastructure in the 1950s. The thorough reconstruction of tramways in 2014-2017 added reliability and comfort. Although tram lines were extended to the airport in 2017, and in the long run, the passenger port will be connected to the tram network by 2023, the infrastructure has remained broadly based on the same logistics as it was decades ago. Considering the significant increase in the number of inhabitants and the multifold expansion of the urban territory, it is time to review the plans both for the transfer of tram lines to those districts where there is no convenient and capable tram connection and establishing a tram connection with neighboring municipalities with the largest commuter pressure.

The analysis provides a starting point for the development of the tram business.

The final report of the feasibility and cost-benefit analysis of light rail transport in Tallinn and Harju County, commissioned by the Association of Local Governments of Harju County and the Tallinn Transport Board at the end of 2019, provides a good starting point for the development of tram traffic. The idea that triggers the analysis is to offer opportunities to make wider use of the potential of the tram as the most environmentally and space-efficient and attractive mode of public transport in order to increase the competitiveness of public transport in the capital region. The analysis performs this task perfectly, providing the source material for progress with different solutions. Only the wider implementation of tram comfort, route reliability, and passenger transport capacity will help to meet the goal of curbing car use and turning it into a 10-20% reduction by 2035 in the Greater Tallinn area. Considering that the residents of Tallinn and the surrounding region spend 1.5 billion euros a year on car traffic, the development of the tram network will not only reduce congestion and nature conservation but also bring significant financial savings of hundreds of millions of euros a year. In order to implement the proposals presented in the analysis, the state and the city signed a memorandum of cooperation with the aim of reaching agreements on action plans and investment needs for the period 2021-2035. To coordinate the work, a mobility council was formed, which includes the Tallinna Linnatranspordi AS, the Association of Local Governments of Harju County, AS Eesti Liinirongid, MTÜ Põhja-Eesti Ühistranspordikeskus, the Road Administration, the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications, and the Rapla County Association of Local Governments. More than one billion euros will need to be invested by 2050 to implement the route developments identified in the analysis.

Promising routes in Tallinn.

The most important tram routes within Tallinn addressed in the analysis are the tram routes in the direction of Lasnamäe, Mustamäe, and Õismäe. The Lasnamäe tram connection has been treated as an intriguing topic in the analysis. As we know, the Lasnamäe tram has been the subject of deliberations for decades. In the analysis considered as the basic document of the Supervisory Board, the Lasnamäe tram connection has been resolved rationally and based on the needs of the district. As an extension of the existing tramway, the 7.2 km tram route planned for the Rahu tee corridor would run along Narva mnt – Lavamaa tn – Paasiku tn – Läänemere tee – Priisle, and its service area would have 115,000 potential users. An alternative is the 6.9 km route along Laagna Road.

Three main routes have been proposed to Mustamäe: along Sõpruse Boulevard to the cross of Ehitajate tee with a length of 5 km; along Mustamäe tee and Vilde street to the crossroads of Ehitajate tee, 5.7 km long and 2 km as an internal connection of Akadeemia tee – Järveotsa. There are about 66,000 users in the service area of tram lines, and considering that about 60% of the population of Mustamäe is made up of the main users of public transport – over 65 and under 18, these are potentially heavily loaded tram lines. The Tondi – Järve tram line, 2.2 km long, or the Järve – Mustamäe road, 2.7 km long, will also open a new logistical perspective for Mustamäe residents. The length of the Väike-Õismäe – Astangu tram line would be 3.8 km. There are 44,500 potential users in its service area. Väike-Õismäe is one of the most densely populated areas of the capital, and the tram would be actively used there. A completely new logistical connection is provided to Õismäe, Mustamäe, and the Lasnamäe business area by a 10.2 km tram line Haabersti junction-Ehitajate tee-Tammsaare tee-Järvevana tee-Ülemiste City.

In order to improve the tram connection in North Tallinn, the route Endla tn viaduct-Madara tn- Sõle tn- Maleva, with a length of 3.7 km, has been proposed. The 3.1 km route Kalaranna tee-Tööstuse-Kopli Street has been proposed to serve the seaside development area. The 1.6 km tram line Ristiku tn – the corridor of the old railway dam-Puhangu tn to Stroomi beach – also offers new opportunities. A separate 2.4-kilometer tram line is planned to serve the rapidly developing Paljassaare area.

Tram connection with nearby municipalities.

Of the planned tram lines with neighboring municipalities, three perspective directions can be highlighted.

Numerous logistics and production units have established their centers in Rae Parish. Commuting in this direction has increased significantly and will continue to do so in the near future. Based on this, it is important to build a 10.5 km line from the airport to the small town of Rae.

The connection with the city of Maardu, which will become the first inter-city tram line in Estonia, has been considered in the analysis as a tram line that needs to be implemented. The 11.5 km route would run from Tallinn City Center through Lasnamäe to Maardu, and it would connect to the promising Lasnamäe tram line. Considering the commuting from the city of Maardu, the tram line will be widely used. If the line is implemented, it would be possible to build a Park and travel car park in Maardu, which would significantly reduce the load on the St. Petersburg road.

Viimsi, which functions as a suburb of Tallinn rather than as a separate rural municipality, would also need a tram line. 10.6 km Viimsi tram route starts from Narva highway and runs along Pirita road to Haabneeme. The construction of a tram line is the only way to curb the morning and evening traffic jams on Pirita Road, and it can be assumed that the tram will get from Viimsi to Tallinn and vice versa much faster and with less nerve costs than sitting in a traffic jam for a long time.

An impressive future awaits the tram

The Tallinn tram, which has reached the age of 132, will face rapid development in the coming decades, as a result of which the public transport logistics of the capital will become unrecognizable. Convenient rail transport streamlines the connection with the city districts as well as creates new opportunities for the residents of the neighboring municipalities. TLT is ready to contribute to the project of the century with both its knowledge and practical skills. It is no exaggeration to say that the future belongs to the tram.