Forget about listening to traffic reports and checking for transit delays, let your personal mobility system on your phone, linked to your credit card, tell you how to get to and from work in the most efficient and/or cheapest way possible. Oh yeah, and ditch your car. This is what Finland wants for its residents.
By 2025 residents of the Finnish capital Helsinki may only find themselves using their personal automobile for the occasional country jaunt. Thanks to a new mobility system built around use of public transit, bicycles, for-hire cars and ridesharing, residents can use a variety of modes for their everyday commute instead of their cars and pay for it all through one, combined system.
The concept is laid out in a recently released Masters Thesis by Sonja Heikkilä, “Mobility as a Service,” (MaaS) that was commissioned by the Helsinki City Planning Department.
Heikkilä looks at current behavior patterns and notes that cars and driving are decreasing in popularity as a wider range of transportation options and easier access to those options become available.
“More people endeavor to use modes that are the most practical for each occasion,” writes Heikkilä.
For example, I may want to drive to the grocery store, bikeshare to dinner with friends, walk to the bar and then take a cab home.
But not everyone knows about, considers or has access to these range of options. Heikkilä’s thesis proposes creating a system that empowers everyone with information on the range of services available and increases the ease of access to those alternatives. For MaaS to work the new system needs to be reliable, affordable and flexible.
The thesis explores how users in a range of scenarios could benefit from MaaS, like an older couple with mobility issues:
Tuula and Raimo are pleased with the public and for-hire transportation service package, which allows the reserving, use, and payment of all possible services, including car rent, taxi, public transport, and even storage lockers, through the simple integrated portal. …Tuula is grateful for the clear instructions for the use of services through the Internet and readily available telephone service. …Raimo values the customized individual public transport services and vehicles.
Because the system can adapt to their needs, the couple can forgo personal car use, the theory goes.
But Mobility as a Service wasn’t just a study to see what’s possible, the City of Helsinki is planning several pilot projects. According to the Helsinki Times, city planners are working with businesses to test out the model, beginning with several large companies in the Helsinki neighborhood of Vallila.
“Employers are being persuaded to join in by building a platform that enables employees to buy transportation services with their own funds,” the Helsinki Times reports.
Though Helsinki would not be entirely car-free, The Guardian writes something has to give to reduce the region’s congestion and taking advantage of connected urban-minded commuters is the way forward.
“Urban mobility badly needs to be rethought for an age of commuters every bit as networked as the vehicles and infrastructures on which they rely, but who retain expectations of personal mobility entrained by a century of private car ownership. Helsinki’s initiative suggests that at least one city understands how it might do so,” the Guardian writes.
Go get ‘em Helsinki. We’ll be watching.
August 5, 2014
By Shaun Courtney