What Helsinki Does Well in Urban Mobility
Helsinki claims the top ranking in the 2023 Urban Mobility Readiness Index thanks to strong government commitment to building sustainable transport. Car-free zones, an advanced cycling infrastructure, and a modern national railroad network enable residents to use modes other than personal gasoline-powered cars and give Helsinki a top 10 finish in the sustainable mobility and public transit sub-indices.
The city’s goal of electric cars accounting for 30% of all vehicles by 2030 is supported by its hefty investments in charging infrastructure. Finland allocated roughly $14 million in funding that will in part support EV charging points, and Helsinki added 200 charging points this year to make access easier.
Helsinki also invested heavily in autonomous vehicle technology, propelling it to global leadership in connected vehicle programs. In recent years, the Finnish Transport Infrastructure Agency (FTIA) supported an autonomous bus pilot in Helsinki and a transportation joint effort with Norway to study the impact of harsh winter conditions on autonomous vehicles.
Urban Mobility Readiness Index, Sustainable Mobility and Public Transit scores
Challenges and Opportunities for Helsinki’s Transportation System
Despite a leap forward in embracing autonomous mobility technology, Helsinki does not yet foster an ecosystem of innovation or fully utilize the latest mobility technologies. The Finnish capital is home to few major mobility companies, thus impacting the amount of private investment available for mobility research.
Helsinki’s public transit network is not yet operating at its full potential – even with government commitment and investment. Public transport accounts for just under a quarter of trips – far behind walking’s percentage of 47%, and just ahead of cars at 20%, according to city estimates. Ridership levels continue to face challenges stemming from issues such as station density, accessibility, and operating hours. The city’s commitment to new light and tram rail projects, however, may help issues in station density and accessibility.
Dimensions of the Urban Mobility Readiness Index score
How Helsinki Can Improve Its Public Transportation and Sustainable Mobility
Boosting service hours can help encourage higher public transit ridership, which currently operates for 18 hours per day. Copenhagen, which has a top-tier public transit network, operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Following this operating model would require further infrastructure investments, with more trains and additional drivers. Helsinki has plans to expand light and tram rail services, and further efforts would help bolster its overall public transit network.
Helsinki's EV charging network is still developing. To offer a world-class charging network, like Amsterdam’s, the city would need to accelerate the deployment of charging stations to multiply its charging station density by fivefold. The city can target this gap by increasing government-backed investments in public charging stations and subsidizing at home station implementation. Helsinki added 200 charging points this year and may benefit from national funding to further expand infrastructure.