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Could Helsinki Be Mostly Car-Free in 10 Years?

Could Helsinki Be Mostly Car-Free in 10 Years?

The benefit of living in larger cities is often that you can use your car a lot less–but what if you didn’t need a car at all?

Well, Helsinki is trying to make car-free living a reality for all of its residents. The Finnish city recently announced a bold plan to integrate all of its public and shared transportation options in order to offer its residents “mobility on demand.” The idea is that the new system will be so good that residents won’t even need a car anymore, and nor would they want to use one as the system would be so cost effective.

The “mobility on demand” system would essentially combine all forms of transportation — bus, carpool, ferries, bikes, etc. — into a smartphone app that will allow users to plan a route and buy their transportation with just a tap of a finger or a click.

“Imagine the popular transit planner Citymapper fused to a cycle-hire service and a taxi app such as Hailo or Uber, with only one payment required, and the whole thing run as a public utility, and you begin to understand the scale of ambition here,” writes The Guardian.

The City of Helsinki will soon test out the model in the Vallila neighborhood and expand from there. The goal is that by 2025, the program will make using public and shared transportation so easy that few will want to use a car–though it won’t do away with cars entirely as many people in the region have summer homes in the countryside and so will have to retain some transportation for those journeys.

All the same though, it’s not just that the service is a functional, seamless use of alternative forms of transportation that will get people using fewer cars. There’s also a cultural shift afoot when it comes to how people think about owning their own cars that’s making these types of programs more attractive. “A car is no longer a status symbol for young people,” says Sonja Heikkilä, a transportation engineer who was commissioned by the city of Helsinki to research the potentials of the program for her master’s thesis. “This could work, even though older people do not wish to give up their cars. Change comes gradually,” Heikkilä adds.

Obviously certain things will need to be worked out — like what happens when everyone wants a taxi home on New Year’s Eve, and whether the system can remain time efficient during peak hours — but Heikkilä and the city are hopeful.

Certainly, Helsinki isn’t thinking that all of its residents are going to ditch their cars – many depend on them to get out of the city and into the countryside – but when thinking about urban mobility, and making city centers more livable, a program like this could be a game changer not just for Helsinki but, with the right infrastructure in place, the rest of the world too.

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Photo Credit: Thinkstock.

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6:31AM PDT on Jul 20, 2014

I hope that Helsinki works the kinks out. It would be great to see a how city planning that could lessen congestion with in a city. While at the same time improving the quality of life.

3:58AM PDT on Jul 20, 2014

As someone who have lived in Helsinki, I can attest to that it's way easier most of the time to use public transport than a car - as is the case with most bigger cities.

One big problem though that Helsinki can't solve all on its own is the commuters. Lots of people live about an hour's (some even longer) drive away and work in the city, and unfortunately options for public transportation are partly lacking. There are a few options of cheaper parking in the "outskirts" of Helsinki combined with a public transport pass, but not enough - and more importantly these places should be outside of Helsinki, as a lot of the traffic jams are outside city limits.

The capital in itself is quite small, in Finland some talk about the Metropol area that are several times bigger than just Helsinki, so many solutions that are needed have to be implemented by several municipalities.

Yes, it is a good initiative, and hopefully Helsinki and surrounding areas will continue to develop the public transport system. As well as more and better bike lanes!
But there are problems and differing opinions and politics to take into account too, it's not as simple and picture perfect as a short mention of it might make it seem.

5:03AM PDT on Jul 19, 2014


12:25AM PDT on Jul 19, 2014

Thank you for sharing!

7:19AM PDT on Jul 18, 2014

good news

2:22AM PDT on Jul 18, 2014

Great idea!

9:29AM PDT on Jul 17, 2014

Nice try...but it's only scratching the surface of the problem and does not fully address the problem of pollution.

RENEWABLE ENERGY is our only solution....What in GOD's name are we waiting for.

I would think that the air that sustains all life on this planet should have TOP PRIORITY.

Just a side note to Big can make just as much money if you invest in Renewable Energy.... set our politicians free so we can finally get started.

8:47AM PDT on Jul 17, 2014


3:51AM PDT on Jul 17, 2014

great ide :)

3:14AM PDT on Jul 17, 2014

Great idea!Thanks!

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