Helsinki to test mobility system with mesh of transport

Jul 12, 2014 by Nancy Owano weblog
traffic jam

How people move around in the city in 2014 might become quaint history by 2025, at least in Helsinki, where urban thinkers suggest revamping the system by setting up efficiently linked transportation modes managed with smartphones. One could buy modes of mobility realtime with their mobile devices. News of the rethink in urban mobility comes by way of the Helsinki Times. Earlier this month it carried a report that the City of Helsinki believes in a model for the future where, ten years from now, transportation in Helsinki will be run as a service. A person can select services wanted with just a click—whether that service is in-town public transportation, a carpool, taxi, a train ticket, or city-center parking fees. Travelers could see what service options are depending on where they want to go. There could be a chained array of options. The goal would be a system that is affordable, flexible and well-coordinated. "The City of Helsinki believes in the model so strongly that it plans to test it at the turn of the year with a few major employers in Vallila. Employers are being persuaded to join in by building a platform that enables employees to buy transportation services with their own funds." Later on, added the report, the test will cover Kalasatama or another new area.

The Guardian explained how it would work: "Subscribers would specify an origin and a destination, and perhaps a few preferences. The app would then function as both journey planner and universal payment platform, knitting everything from driverless cars and nimble little buses to shared bikes and ferries into a single, supple mesh of mobility." One's departures and arrivals would be in the hands, ideally, of a well-run utility.

The model itself is thought-provoking enough, especially with daily news headlines in other parts of the world of new transportation upstarts competing with traditional transport and treated as problems rather than as solutions, components that could be integrated within existing transport modes. Also gaining attention is the notion, that if the plan were to fly, so to speak, private cars could be made obsolete.

In this thoroughly networked system, where one can have mobility on instant demand, who would really need to own a car? As The Guardian said earlier this week, Helsinki is hoping that a mobility on demand system—integrating all forms of both shared and public transport in a single payment network—could essentially render private cars obsolete.

Sonja Heikkilä, a transportation engineer whose master thesis explored the new model, said that doing without car ownership does not distress the younger generation. "A car is no longer a status symbol for young people," Heikkilä said in Helsinki Times. "On the other hand, they are more adamant in demanding simple, flexible and inexpensive transportation."

How applicable would the Helsinki model be in other cities in the world? Questions arise if this could work in cities where citizens may not be as digitally connected or less apt to change their minds about private car ownership. Even within Finland, said The Guardian, it remained to be seen if the scheme could be as effective in lower-density municipalities as it would in Helsinki.

Weighing the future impact of such a plan in place, the Helsinki Times commented that, "with good luck, everyone wins when can be provided more accurately in ways that people really want to use them." On the other hand, "With bad luck, supply and demand will correlate even less, when simultaneously everyone wants to take a taxi home from their Christmas party."

Nationally, the concept of a shared mobility system is well received and encouraged. The VTT Technical Research Center of Finland, an applied research organization and part of the Finnish innovation system under the Ministry of Employment and the Economy, last month issued a statement that in 2020 the share of public transport and car pooling in densely populated urban areas will increase, with easy-to-use mobility services as a viable option to owning a car. Talking about fuel and engineering cars in certain ways can only go so far. "The entire system needs revamping," said VTT's research professor and TransSmart program manager, Nils-Olof Nylund. "You won't make the world a better place by filling Helsinki with electric cars, for example. They take up just as much room as conventional cars running on petrol or diesel. The ways to achieve change will be through increasing the share of public transport, and rethinking mobility and logistics services to include the views of the people who need the services."

Helsinki recently played host to an international conference on smart transportation, in June. This was the ITS European Congress (Intelligent Transport Systems and Services) where focal points included better through improved fleet management and smart ticketing/payment as well as "seamless journeys."

Explore further: Finland to become a model country for sustainable transport by 2020

More information: www.helsinkitimes.fi/finland/f… l-not-own-a-car.html

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Cloud-based mobility services for European cities

Jan 24, 2014

Since it reached mainstream around 2006, cloud computing has widely been acknowledged as the future of ICT. The possibilities seem endless, and researchers are coming up with new ideas and concepts at a head-spinning pace. ...

City dwellers juggle with their means of transportation

May 01, 2013

A study carried out by EPFL and UNIGE and conducted in Lausanne, Geneva, Bern and Yverdon-les-Bains reports the way active urban groups have greatly diversified their modes of travel over the past two decades.

A course correction for transportation thinking

May 16, 2014

Time spent commuting is usually considered time wasted. At least that's how transportation planners think of it, and it stands true whether you're stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic, soaring through the skies ...

Recommended for you

Turning bio-waste into hydrogen

Jul 29, 2014

Whilst hydrogen cars look set to be the next big thing in an increasingly carbon footprint-aware society, sustainable methods to produce hydrogen are still in their early stages. The HYTIME project is working on a novel production ...

User comments : 8

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

TheGhostofOtto1923
not rated yet Jul 12, 2014
I thought it would make some sense for a single AI to be in charge of all traffic within a city. Self-driving vehicles would relinquish authority to this AI upon entering the borough and the AI would plan the best possible routes in conjunction with all the other vehicles, coordinating deliveries, connections for mass transit, local traffic density, available parking space, construction, emergencies, and the like.
Kieseyhow
not rated yet Jul 12, 2014
A single AI would not work efficiently and create a security risk. It has been proven that swarm AI systems are much more efficient and reliable and highly adaptive. It would be fine for a central location to weight various routing options, like a conductor runs an orchestra, but it does not make sense to have a single system control the individual vehicles. The amount of data that a robotic vehicle has to process is beyond the capabilities of an affordable network.

I would hope that people with purely electric, zero emission, and manually powered vehicles receive 80 to 90% reduction in traffic fees.
alfsen
5 / 5 (1) Jul 12, 2014
Total central control over all transportation. Centralized databases describing the comings and goings of every citizen. What could go wrong?
Rute
not rated yet Jul 12, 2014
This seems like a really good idea. I don't know any concrete numbers, but the inefficiencies related to transportation must be staggeringly high. What I mean by this is that an awfully large amount of energy must be used relative to the transportation kilometers per amount of people, because of factors such as traffic jams, high percentage of personal vehicles and near empty public transport vehicles.

Carpooling is a great innovation but sadly the number of people using carpools has been in steady decline over the past few decades, perhaps because of the unflexible characteristic thereof. The type of system presented here is great because it actually contains in itself the best sides of carpooling. I wonder if it would be possible to include vehicles such as trucks, when modified for suitability for passengers, into this kind of system. Imagine the energy & cost savings for everyone involved!
Eikka
not rated yet Jul 12, 2014
In this thoroughly networked system, where one can have mobility on instant demand, who would really need to own a car?


The article kinda answers its own question.

On the other hand, "With bad luck, supply and demand will correlate even less, when simultaneously everyone wants to take a taxi home from their Christmas party."


That is not "bad luck", that's a completely predictable and inevitable issue with things like daily commute to work, where busses cannot go from every door to every door and people will prefer to ride in comfort instead of being forced to grab a bicycle.

So of course everyone who has to travel further than walking distance wants a car at 7 am on a monday morning when it's raining sleet sideways, and nobody wants to be late for work because they have to pick and drop others.

To be able to provide this level of service, there would have to be about as many cars as there are commuters, in which case why not just everyone have a car like before?
Eikka
5 / 5 (1) Jul 12, 2014
I don't know any concrete numbers, but the inefficiencies related to transportation must be staggeringly high.


Not as such. There are statistics on public transportation passenger miles per vehicle, and things like busses don't actually achieve much higher efficiency than private cars. If you're driving a fairly economical car with two people inside, you're using less resources than the average city bus.

That's mainly because public transportation has to deal with getting the empty vehicle around. Shuttling the same car across town to catch one passenger here and there means lots of extra travel per actual passenger mile, whereas the private car is almost always where its passengers are and never has to do any empty miles.

The more stops and routes you add to the public service, the more empty miles you get. In other words, the worse the service, the higher the efficiency, and the better the service (more routes, stops, faster turnover) the less efficient it is.
alfie_null
5 / 5 (1) Jul 13, 2014
If you're driving a fairly economical car with two people inside, you're using less resources than the average city bus.

That's not the average car where I live. Try comparing the average city bus to an average SUV or minivan with a single driver.
Eikka
not rated yet Jul 13, 2014
If you're driving a fairly economical car with two people inside, you're using less resources than the average city bus.

That's not the average car where I live. Try comparing the average city bus to an average SUV or minivan with a single driver.


I could, but that's not the point. Public transportation isn't inherently more efficient than private vehicles.

I seem to recall that a bus needs to have an average of five to seven passengers in it throughout the day to achieve the same economy as a small car with two, both because of the empty miles problem but also because the bus rarely takes the straightest route to where each passenger is going, so they end up travelling unnecessary miles.