14 Jul 2016


The goal of eliminating the need for private car ownership within ten years may seem ambitious, it’s a laudable initiative, considering the benefits that could come to both the city and its citizens alike if it were to come to fruition. However, there are some major hurdles to cross before Helsinki could go virtually car-less in the future, but considering that the target is creating a viable transportation architecture with the tools already at hand, perhaps those hurdles are much lower than expected.

One of the main challenges in getting to a point where owning your own vehicle is unnecessary is in creating a seamless and integrated private and public transportation system without separate fees, schedules and routes for buses, trains, taxis, ridesharing services, and so on.

With an integrated mobility solution available, which would include multi-modal transport options, citizens could purchase a single kilometer-based package that would cover a range of fees, from trains to buses to bike rentals to ridesharing options or potentially even autonomous taxis, each of which might have different rates per kilometer, but citizens wouldn’t need to manage multiple passes, fees, or payment modes.

Mobility would truly be more of a service than a single transportation solution, and as advanced as the individual solutions are becoming, from electric buses to hybrid cars to ebikes, the implementation of these solutions aren’t exactly holistic or integrated, and some may even be incompatible with others. According to the Helsinki Times, transportation engineer Sonja Heikkilä of the Helsinki City Planning Department, who wrote her master’s thesis on the potential that a kind of ‘mobility as a service’ system could have, there are not only technical hurdles to overcome, but also a culture change. “A car is no longer a status symbol for young people,” said Heikkilä, and the younger cohort is “more adamant in demanding simple, flexible and inexpensive transportation.”

Helsinki is already experimenting with certain aspects of this kind of ‘mobility as a service’ model,  The Helsinki Regional Transport Authority came out with an innovative minibus service called Kutsuplus that allows riders to specify their own pick-up points and destinations through their smartphone. The app then categorizes and calculates a route that is optimal for all of the riders. Based on the results of this pilot program, the model could then be rolled out to other cities, or even adapted to other transit modes, in the future.

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