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Helsinki expects to make private cars obsolete by 2025.  No need for its residents to own a private vehicle.  The capital of Finland has a plan!

It’s Uber on steroids..

Helsinki is the picturesque capital of Finland, one of the nations dangling above Europe like a banana.  The country has the cleanest air in Europe and the most honest citizenry.  (11 out of 12 wallets deliberately left abandoned around Helsinki were returned according to a Reader’s Digest study.)  Finland is also home to Wife Carrying, Air Guitar Playing or Mobile Phone Throwing World Championships! It doesn’t take much for the Finns to get behind a contest or event.

Yes, the lifestyle and culture is different there.  So different that with the inevitable march of smartphone technology, personal car ownership will become a thing of the past.

Helsinki has in mind to integrate its public and private transportation services to give citizens the ability to use the cheapest and fastest mode of transportation available.

Every form of transportation, public and semi-public, will form a network of possible modes and routes.  Using smartphones, residents can arrange an on-demand bus, a rideshare, automated car or good old public transit.  Servers in the cloud will optimize alternative options for cost and time.

How big a factor will be personal convenience?  Like the convenience of running back to your house because you forgot your shopping list?  Also making precipitous mid-course changes in plans will have to be cut down.

While the plan is 10 years down the road, Helsinki has already started to put things in motion. The Helsinki Regional Transport Authority came out with an innovative minibus service called Kutsuplus that allows riders to specify their own pick-up points and destinations through their smartphone. The app then categorizes and calculates a route that is optimal for all of the riders.

The wrinkle here is that the bus route is optimized for the total ridership, not each rider.  So a specific set of riders could be mightily inconvenienced for the good of the busload.  Still, sitting in car traffic is a bore, and potentially dangerous for texting.  Helsinki commuters lose roughly eight working days a year due to traffic. So cutting cars off the road seems like a logical and noble undertaking.

I lived in Chicago for 30+ years, driving a succession of personal cars wherever I wanted to go.  That is, except for the last four years (before moving to LA.)  The last four years, I had moved to within walking distance (about a 15 – 20 minute walk) of an El platform.  With Chicago’s spiderweb of subways and elevated trains, I found myself taking public transportation everywhere.  Supplemented by comfortable walking shoes and the occasional cab.  It was the way to go, unless you had to transport 6 giant bags of top soil.  Which was thankfully rare.

What Helsinki has in mind takes this up a notch by plugging into one accessible grid all the available alternatives to personal parking.

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