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Helsinki Has a Plan to Get People to Stop Owning Cars

Posted by addisethiopia / አዲስ ኢትዮጵያ on October 12, 2014

Gbc2A system being developed in Finland would allow people to subscribe to all kinds of mobility options and pay for everything on their phones

ars overcrowd the world’s cities, locking people into a commuting model that pretty much guarantees gridlock. To handle all of those vehicles, almost half of the space in cities is taken up by roads and what’s known in the urban planning business as “transportation storage”—what the rest of us call garages and parking lots. Considering that by mid-century, more than two out of every three people on Earth will live in metropolitan areas, all that space will be badly needed.

So what’s a city to do?

Helsinki, Finland, is thinking boldly: if its plans come to fruition, by 2025 no one in the city will need to own a car. While it may seem inconceivable, planners there believe that by combining one of the pillars of 20th century urban mobility—mass transit—with two of today’s more potent trends—the sharing economy and all-purpose smartphones—they can make car ownership a quaint concept.

Why drive?

The Finnish city has committed to a concept called “mobility on demand,” in which a wide range of transportation options from buses to driverless cars to bikes would be meshed together into one system that a person could use to order any trip on a smartphone. The passenger would need to enter just an origin and a destination, and the mobile app at the heart of the program would do the rest, selecting the most appropriate modes of transportation and mapping the best route based on real-time traffic data.

Everything would be covered through one payment plan, either through a monthly charge, like the taxi service Uber, or a pay-as-you-go option. Users would be able to monitor their costs and adjust how they use different means of getting around.

The plan offers door-to-door service that would eliminate the first-mile and last-mile complications of getting to and from public transit. And trips would be customized based on their purpose. For instance, since you wouldn’t need an empty car to get to the grocery store, a bike through a sharing program might be arranged, but a driverless car would be recommended to get you and all your food home. If the weather’s expected to change, you’d get an alert so you’d be able to switch your ride.

If the concept evolves as imagined by its inventor, a traffic engineer named Sonja Heikkilä, the multi-modal transit system wouldn’t be run by the government, but would be built around multiple apps created by different private companies. They would compete by packaging transit options for people who could subscribe to a plan, with the option of switching to a different one, much as people can with cell phone service today.

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