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Helsinki hire bike & public transport vision to render car ownership pointless

Maybe not entirely – but radical strategy based on smartphones will make end-to-end multimode journeys easier

The Finnish capital, Helsinki, has unveiled details of a “mobility on demand” public transport scheme under its Vision 2025 strategy that it believes will mean there will be no point for residents to own a car in the city.

According to The Guardian, the city’s transport authority aims to have rolled out the scheme to overhaul its current public transport network by 2025.

It will provide users with a range of options for their entire journey, using smartphone apps to plan and purchase travel, and aims to rival private car ownership not just in financial terms but also flexibility and user-friendliness.

The scheme, summarised in this graphic from the Helsinki Regional Transport Authority, would incorporate buses, driverless cars, hire bikes and ferries with just one payment needed for the end-to-end journey.

The authority says that the four central aims of its Vision 2025 are:

Intelligent: We provide our customers with services that enhance the travel experience and are based on intelligent technology.

Number one choice: An increasing number of people use public transport for commuting and leisure journeys. In the target state, over 50 per cent of the increase in traffic due to population growth in the Helsinki region is managed by public transport.

Safe and sustainable: Increasing use of public transport improves traffic safety, reduces the amount of space for traffic and road erosion. Public transport is based on sustainable energy sources and low-emission vehicles.

Bellwether: We want to strengthen the position of the Helsinki region as one of the best public transport organisers and developers in Europe. We develop public transport together with our customers and both domestic and international partners.

Vision 2025 follows the launch by the Helsinki Regional Transport Authority last year of a minibus service, Kutsuplus, that enables users to select their pick-up point and destination through a smartphone app then collates information to select the most viable route for a number of passengers.

The minibuses have no fixed routes or timetables, and in May this year saw nearly 4,500 journeys, with customer satisfaction scores averaging 4.6 on a scale of 1-5, according to the authority.

The Guardian points out that Kutsuplus costs more than a normal bus journey but less than taking a taxi, but also cautions that public transport providers “have an inherent obligation to serve the entire citizenry, not merely the segment who can afford a smartphone and are comfortable with its use.”

Finland, home to Nokia, does have the advantage of being one the most advanced countries in the world when it comes to harnessing mobile technology, with usage levels to match.

According to a survey last year reported on, all Finnish children aged 11 or 12 are able to use a mobile phone, and 80 per cent of them own a smartphone.

While The Guardian says the city is unlikely to ever become entirely free of cars – it highlights that many Finns would need for example to drive to holiday homes outside the capital – it does suggest that Helsinki’s approach may be one that can address the problems of congestion on its major routes while also bringing public transport into a fully networked age.

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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Markus | 9 years ago

Making public transport more accessible is a good idea. It would also be a good idea to spread this tech to smaller cities, where the public transport network is more sparse.

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