Helsinki is developing into an increasingly dense city that cares for its green areas and reduces its carbon footprint by promoting sustainable modes of transport. The City’s goal is to make public transport, cycling and walking easy options for everybody.
Surveys show that Helsinki public transport services have the world’s most satisfied customers. The services are functional, the Metro system is expanding, and Helsinki Region Transport (HSL) is in the vanguard of the development of smart mobility services.
Public transport represented 34 percent of all journeys made in Helsinki in 2017. The Metro, buses, trams and local trains carry passengers efficiently and to all parts of the city with just one ticket. Helsinki has a highly popular seasonal bike-share programme. Helsinki islands are served by regular ferries. The city’s transport choices were complemented by city scooters and row boats in summer 2019.
More than half of Helsinki residents cycle at least once a week
Helsinki emphasizes sustainable transport and seeks to promote cycling as a fast, environmentally friendly and healthy mode of transport. The City invests in the cycling route network – every euro spent on new cycling routes is estimated to produce 8 euros worth of benefits.
Helsinki’s cycling numbers have grown, and cycling accidents have been reduced.Last year, 11 percent of all journeys were made by bicycle in Helsinki.
In order to give a further boost to cycling, Helsinki is building a network of express cycling ways, a so-called Baana network. When complete, the network will link the main residential, office and commercial areas of Helsinki with direct, high-quality and fast cycling routes. The first Baana in Helsinki was built into a former harbour railway corridor from the Töölö bay area in the city centre to Ruoholahti in the west.
Helsinki’s City Bikes bike-share programme has been a success. The popularity of bike-share has grown continuously, and the bike-share season has been extended.
The popularity of bike-share has also exceeded financial goals, and the City covers its costs for the system almost fully with user fees. Customers in the Helsinki metropolitan area were served in 2019 by 3,450 bikes available from 345 docking stations.
City grows on rails
Helsinki seeks to build housing especially on rail transport lines, as rail transport is a fast and environmentally friendly mode of transport. The future Helsinki will have several regional hubs connected by rails.
Many of the city’s new rail lines will be for light rail, that is, high-capacity and right-of-way, fast urban rail transit.
Three light rail projects are underway:
- Helsinki’s first light rail line will be Raide-Jokeri. Construction started in summer 2019. Raide-Jokeri will run from Itäkeskus in eastern Helsinki to Keilaniemi in Espoo, replacing the current bus line 550.
- The second most advanced of the projects in the Crown Bridges (Kruunusillat) light rail line to connect the growing eastern Helsinki district of Laajasalo with Kalasatama and the city centre via a major bridge connection. Construction is scheduled to start in 2020.
- The third project, scheduled for completion in the late 2020s, is the Vihdintie light rail line to run from the city centre to Pohjois-Haaga. Vihdintie is today a busy motorway. The motorway and surrounding areas will be redeveloped into a “city boulevard” urban district served by diverse modes of transport.
Conventional trams, which mostly serve the inner city, will have new and faster lines in the future. New lines will be built, for example, to the new Hernesaari and Kalasatama areas. Trams will spend less time at traffic lights and be better separated from other traffic.
Metro to go further
The Helsinki Metro system is growing. The system expanded in 2017 with an extension from western Helsinki to Matinkylä in Espoo. The next phase of expansion will comprise a connection from Matinkylä to Kivenlahti in Espoo.
Future plans for the Metro include a new line from Vuosaari in eastern Helsinki to Östersundom, which is a district to be developed largely in the 2030s and 2040s.
New rail connections envisioned
City Rail Loop (Pisararata) would run underground in an 8-kilometre-long railway tunnel in the Helsinki inner city. City Rail Loop would ease congestion at the Central Railway Station. The rail loop would run from Pasila to the city centre and back.
The Cities of Helsinki, Tampere and Vantaa have taken initiative to develop Finland’s main railway line with Railway Finland. The goal of the project is to build a faster connection between the Helsinki city centre and Helsinki Airport and a direct long-distance train service from the main line to the airport. Finland Railway would shorten the travel time from Helsinki to Tampere to about an hour.
No decisions have been made on City Rail Loop and Railway Finland. A preliminary investigation is underway on a possible rail connection between Helsinki and the Estonian capital Tallinn.