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Estonia has become the first country in the world to offer free public transport to all its residents, a move the Baltic state says will not only reduce air pollution and traffic congestion, but also foster commercial activity in its city centers, according to the World Economic Forum.

Expand chart
Metro fares collected by Axios from news reports, municipal websites, and PriceofTravel; Chart: Harry Stevens/Axios

Why it matters: The metro can be a touchy subject (just ask D.C. residents), and for good reason. Public transportation is a huge factor in making major cities affordable and convenient to live and work in. Combine rapid urbanization with crumbling infrastructure, and you’ve got a tricky and expensive problem to solve.

The big picture: Around the world, national and municipal governments are experimenting with ways to cope with growing transportation demands in the face of economic and environmental pressures — some more successfully than others.

  • The Estonian capital of Tallinn has offered free public transit to all registered residents of the city since 2013. The success of the program has prompted cities in other progressive EU nations, like France and Germany, to consider similar initiatives as a means of reducing air pollution.
  • In Japan "bullet trains" have set a global standard for efficiency and near-obsessive punctuality, and other Asian cities are scrambling to catch up. Tokyo Metro has secured contracts to provide operational consulting to Ho Chi Minh City, Jakarta and Manila.
  • In Seattle, Amazon invested $1.5 million last week to increase public transit capacity, adding to the $60 million total that the tech giant has invested since 2014. In its search for an American city to house "HQ2," a second headquarters expected to create 50,000 jobs, Amazon has eliminated candidates without robust public transit.
  • In Caracas, Venezuela, where inflation is expected to reach a staggering 1,000,000% by year's end, the once "punctual, efficient and clean" metro system had to stop charging its standard 4 bolívar fare after running out of paper to print tickets. The timing couldn't be worse, with demand having grown from the intended 700,000 daily riders to 2.5 million as a result of exorbitant taxi prices.

Go deeper

Mike Allen, author of AM
3 hours ago - World

Courage vs. coddling with China

Peng Shuai of China serves during the China Open in Beijing in 2017. Photo: Andy Wong/AP

The women's professional tennis tour suspended tournaments in China Wednesday out of concern for Peng Shuai, on the same day that a top business voice made excuses for Beijing.

Why it matters: Ahead of February's Winter Olympics in Beijing, some sports figures are taking on the regime — while Big Business shrinks from confrontation with the world's second-largest economy.

3 hours ago - Sports

What to know about the first MLB lockout since 1995

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Hope you enjoyed the recent flurry of free-agent activity, because it's likely the last non-lockout-related MLB news for a while.

Driving the news: The owners locked out the players after the collective bargaining agreement expired at midnight last night, leading to MLB's ninth work stoppage — and first since 1995.

Biden extends mask mandates for travelers into 2022

President Biden delivers remarks at the White House on Dec. 1. Photo: Anna Moneymaker via Getty Images

President Biden will announce new testing protocols for international travelers on Thursday and extend masking requirements through March as the U.S. prepares to fight the Omicron variant this winter, according to senior administration officials.

Driving the news: The U.S. will tighten pre-departure testing protocols starting early next week by requiring all inbound international travelers to take COVID-19 tests within one day of their departure rather than three.