Helsinki invests in extensive, reliable and fast public transport. When planning, the needs of a variety of different user groups, such as children, the elderly and the disabled, are taken into consideration. According to a recent study by the automobile associations of 15 countries, these goals have been met very well. The public transport system of Helsinki has been ranked second in a comparison of 23 European cities.
Over the years, the public transport system of Helsinki has performed well in many international comparisons. Helsinki has always been among the top cities in the annual BEST study.
The public transport system of the Helsinki metropolitan area consists of many different means of transport. The metro and commuter trains form the basis, which is complemented by buses and, in the central city area, trams. All trains leave from Helsinki Central Station, stop next at Pasila station, and then continue on from there in different directions.
Rail traffic favoured
Helsinki also favours the use of environmentally friendly trams. A metro carriage carrying hundreds of people uses, per passenger, only one-thirtieth of the energy needed for an automobile – without the emission of exhaust gases. In the near future, the amount of people using rail traffic will increase, due to the construction of new housing near train and metro stations.
The metro has been a significant part of the public transport system of Helsinki since commencing operations in 1982. The line currently measures 21km, taking 23 minutes to travel from one end to the other. At present, a 14km extension reaching the Helsinki region’s western suburbs is under construction, and the line is planned to be ready for operations in 2017. In addition, there are plans to extend the metro system even further east, as well as to the west and also to the airport.
The City Rail Loop is a planned urban railway line for commuter trains under the Helsinki city centre. The loop-shaped railway starts in Pasila and runs in a tunnel via Töölö, Helsinki city centre, Hakaniemi and back to Pasila. This new railway line will smooth traffic flow in the whole country.
Trams in the central city area
In the central city area, trams are the main form of public transport, with the extensive tram network used daily by approximately 200,000 passengers. During the next 20 years, the network will be extended to reach several new residential areas.
Light line Jokeri
The first light rail line for which planning has been started in the Helsinki metropolitan area is the Jokeri line, which is planned to run between Helsinki’s Itäkeskus and Espoo’s Keilaniemi. The line length is approximately 25 km, 16 km of which is located in Helsinki and 9 km in Espoo. The Jokeri line will re-place the current trunk bus line 550, the most actively used bus line in the Helsinki region.
Building housing and services along light rail lines can be considered sustainable in many ways. Infill development along light rail lines is sensible as the existing street network and public utility services in the area can be utilised. Infill development also supports or even increases the provision of services in the area. Citizens’ need to use their own cars.
Room for cycling
Helsinki is extremely bicycle-friendly and enjoys a very large bikeway network that includes some 1,180 km of roads, tracks, paths or marked lanes specifically designated for cyclists, with 2,600 km in total covering the entire metropolitan area. Helsinki has also an extensive network of recreational paths, 90 km of which run along the shoreline.
Good choices for the environment
In its calls for tender, the Helsinki Regional Transport Authority (HSL) favours vehicles with low emissions. In addition, HSL studies and tests the suitability of alternative fuels for public transport operating in the metropolitan area. Most buses run on diesel, but there are also a certain number of vehicles fuelled by natural gas.