In accordance with the City Strategy, the percentage of sustainable modes of transport is being increased in Helsinki. The emission reductions of traffic are realised by means such as increasing the popularity of cycling and walking and by increasing the percentage of electric cars, electric buses and rail-based public transport. Helsinki paves the way for a strong surge in the number of e-vehicles by enabling the market-driven construction of a public charging infrastructure. Helsinki is a pioneer in creating a comprehensively functional smart transport system and serves as a test platform for commercialising new smart transport services and promoting future technologies.
The Carbon-neutral Helsinki 2035 action plan contains 30 procedures pertaining to reducing emissions from transport. The City’s goal is to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions from traffic by 69% from the 2005 level by 2035. The actions are related to increasing the number of charging stations for electric cars; promoting sustainable modes of transport such as walking, cycling and public transport; reducing the emissions from heavy traffic and harbour operations; further studies on a pricing system for vehicle traffic; raising the prices for parking; introducing new mobility services and densifying the city structure.
By the end of 2019, there were a total of 97 public electric car charging stations in Helsinki, 59 of which were built in 2019. In addition to this, the city features semi-public charging stations in locations such as private parking facilities, as well as private charging stations owned by properties, for example.
The low-emission criteria for vehicles were updated in 2019, and survey work on developing the criteria further will be carried out in 2020. Low-emission vehicles will receive a discount on parking fees, among other things.
The City of Helsinki prepared programmes to promote cycling and walking in 2019, and the programmes will be submitted to the Urban Environment Committee in spring 2020.
In 2019, Helsinki was accepted into an EU project called Handshake. The project is a ‘best practice’ project focusing on developing cycling traffic, and nine other European cities are taking part in addition to Helsinki. Helsinki’s mentor in the project is Copenhagen, which has extensive experience in developing an urban environment that is friendly to cyclists and people in general. In addition to Copenhagen, Amsterdam and Munich are serving as mentor cities in the project.
The goal of Helsinki Region Transport (HSL) is to reduce the local emissions of public transport that affect air quality, as well as the carbon dioxide emissions, by over 90% from the level of 2010 by 2025. The goal is also for at least 30% of HSL’s buses (approximately 400 units) to run on electricity by 2025. At the end of 2019, 50 of HSL’s buses ran on electricity, and one quarter of these operate in the Helsinki area.
The Helsinki region was ranked second in the international BEST ranking, for the fifth year in a row. In the BEST survey, customer satisfaction ratings of the public transport of eight European cities were compared. 76% of customers in the HSL area were satisfied with public transport in 2019.
HSL’s tickets and zones were revised in April 2019. The zone revision has brought more customers to public transport and increased ticket sales. The number of passengers increased throughout 2019, but the increase was clearly stronger after the zone revision. Before the new zones, there was a 1.9% increase, whereas after the revision, there was a 3.4% increase from May to October when compared to the same period in 2018.
In terms of the different modes of transport, the number of passengers increased by 4.5% on the metro, 4.7% on buses and 5.4% on local trains in the HSL area in 2019 (situation in mid-December). The number of tram passengers decreased, but this was caused in part by the extensive special traffic arrangements in Sörnäinen caused by renovation of Hämeentie. Buses have had more passengers especially at stops in zones A and B.Due to the revision, the popularity of single-use tickets has decreased as customers have switched to season and one-day tickets. With the zone revision, ticket prices decreased in many areas. The average price reduction was 1.3%.
Distribution of modes of transport
Primary means of transport on trips made within Helsinki; percentage of all trips
The city bike service was expanded in 2019. In addition to its existing 150 stations and 1,500 city bikes, Helsinki introduced 88 new stations and 880 new bikes in an extended area. The city bike season began in April and ended at the end of October. The popularity of city bikes increased from the previous year, with approximately 3 million journeys made in Helsinki.
In 2019, the City of Helsinki provided its staff with an opportunity to use city bikes in their working and leisure time. The new staff benefit was provided to everyone with at least a one-month employment relationship with the City. The benefit was thus available to the City’s thousands of summer workers and substitutes.
In 2019, new mobility services were introduced in the streets of Helsinki, as many electric scooter businesses began to provide the residents with electric scooters. HSL also piloted its own scooter system in the Vuosaari district of Helsinki as part of the IdeaLab project.
The MAL 2019 plan was approved in March 2019. The plan was created in collaboration by the entire Helsinki region, covering land use, housing and traffic in the area. The plan lists numerous concrete measures to make the region low-emission, attractive, vital and flourishing by 2030. Based on the MAL 2019 plan, a new MAL agreement between the municipalities of the Helsinki region and the state for 2020–2023 is being prepared.
In the summer of 2019, the EU approved the update to the Clean Vehicles Directive to promote clean and energy-efficient road vehicles. With the revised directive, the member states will have binding obligations to include clean vehicles in their public procurements.
The redevelopment of Hämeentie began in March 2019. The section of Hämeentie between Siltasaarenkatu and Helsinginkatu is being redeveloped into a pedestrian, cycling and public transport street. The redevelopment will make the roadside more pleasant, as decreased car traffic means less noise and street dust, as well as improved air quality. The redevelopment will also increase pedestrian and cycling safety and expedite public transport.
Construction of the Jokeri Light Rail, a light rail connection to be constructed from Helsinki’s Itäkeskus to Espoo’s Keilaniemi, began in June 2019. With the Jokeri Light Rail, the urban structure will become denser, the need for private cars will decrease and traffic emissions will be reduced significantly.
Helsinki’s smart transport development plan for 2030 was approved by the Urban Environment Committee in September 2019. The goal of the project is a low-emission, functional and safe transport system and a thriving city.
Helsinki’s smart mobility umbrella project Jätkäsaari Mobility Lab began in 2019. The project is an innovation platform for new mobility services and technologies, implemented in the Jätkäsaari area.
Robot bus transport entered its second year of service in Helsinki as a self-driving robot bus operated in Helsinki’s Kalasatama from May to the end of November. The Helsinki RobobusLine trials were part of the EU-wide mySMARTLife project.
In 2019, the volume of motor vehicle traffic (i.e. cars, vans, lorries, trucks, buses and trams) in Helsinki increased by one per cent at the peninsula border and decreased by one per cent at the inner city border in comparison to the previous year. On the crosstown calculation line, the volume of motor vehicle traffic remained almost unchanged from 2018 to 2019.
On an average weekday in June, the Helsinginniemi peninsula was crossed by 34,900 cyclists, marking a 4% increase from 2018.
The number of Helsinki residents owning a car increased by 0.5% (415 cars/1,000 residents) and the number of cars in traffic use decreased by 0.3% (328 cars/1,000 residents) compared to the previous year. The number of cars per 1,000 residents has increased by 3.5% in the last five years, while the same number for cars in traffic use has decreased by 0.3% in the same period.
Eyes on the future:
The population of Helsinki is growing and the land use is becoming denser, which is why it is particularly important to control the harmful impacts of traffic. Key factors include land use planning, promoting the public transport system and sustainable modes of transport and implementing and introducing a vehicle traffic pricing system. Additionally, conditions must be created for increasing the use of low-emission vehicles and the functionality of city logistics must be improved. Digitalisation is being utilised in developing smarter traffic data and traffic management methods, among other things.