Aviapolis, the largest business area in Southern Finland, is creating a platform for smart mobility pilots to improve the existing traffic connections in the area.
In recent years Aviapolis in Vantaa, Finland has grown into a vibrant business, shopping and residential area and is the fastest growing employment hub in the Helsinki region. Built around the Helsinki international airport, the area is served by good transport links and a new rail line but the current mobility challenge is the ‘last mile’ as many of its 35,000 jobs have a final step which is not close to Aviapolis railway station.
“Many functions [at Aviapolis] have been divided into their own islands and moving between them can be challenging,” explains Minna Honkanen, Aviapolis City Project Manager at City of Vantaa. “Based on this we have started to look for new mobility services, which could complement the existing public transportation and traffic system in the area.”
This is the premise behind Vantaa’s new pilot project. The aim, in addition to finding sustainable and commercially viable smart transport services for the Aviapolis area, is to create a platform for future agile pilots across the city.
From shared rides to sharing cars
The pilot project, funded by the City of Vantaa and the Finnish Transport Agency, kicked off in late 2015 after surveying local companies and habitants on their transport needs. The survey results were then turned into mobility challenges and a market notice, which invited companies to submit their potential solutions and services.
The notice was executed in collaboration with the regional development agency Helsinki Business Hub (HBH), which used its industry knowledge and networks to support the entire process.
“We also spread the market notice through HBH’s channels and that is how most of the service providers found us,” says Honkanen. “HBH has great international networks and we even received a few submissions from abroad.”
All in all the project team received twenty applications, which were eventually narrowed down to two services to conduct trials at Aviapolis: car-sharing service Go now! and taxi-sharing company Vediafi. Both began their pilots in September and will run them until the end of 2016.
Vediafi’s taxi app enables people heading in the same direction to pool together and easily share the taxi’s cost based on the distance travelled. The users can also create their own travel groups. Vediafi has been happy with the pilot’s results so far.
“The app has been downloaded hundreds of times since the pilot started and people have been actively searching for suitable rides. To reach the critical mass, we hope people will increasingly start to create their own travel groups,” says Karri Rantasila, Co-Owner of Vediafi. “The support from organisations such as City of Vantaa and HBH will continue to be very valuable to us going forward.”
Go now! is also focused on greater travel efficiency. It offers car hire on a pay-per-minute basis for short rides using a fleet of hybrid vehicles. The company has found the pilot project particularly useful for increasing its cooperation with city officials and trialing new features for the service.
“We have been able to allocate resources towards developing features needed for the pilot, which otherwise would not have been on our roadmap yet,” Matti Hänninen from Go now! explains. “For example we have introduced waiting time pricing, which makes trips cheaper when a car is parked and waits for the user while they run errands.”
Platform for agile pilots
Like its pilot companies, the City of Vantaa also claims the trials have been an important learning project. Honkanen says the project has not only achieved its goal of introducing new mobility services to the area (which are expected to expand their presence after the pilots), but also helped the city gain a better understanding of users’ experiences.
“The pilot launches have gone well, but we have also learnt it is challenging to change people’s transport habits and attract large numbers of active users,” Honkanen says. “Based on this we have slightly shifted the focus of these pilots and made customer feedback the priority.”
Next up for Vantaa is applying the knowledge attained from its pilots to make city planning more inclusive of mobility services and to create a platform for agile pilots which can be easily replicated for future projects.
“This was a local trial and now we can set off with bigger projects and roll out multiple pilots to different areas at the same time. This is made possible by what we have learnt from the current projects.We will continue to pilot all kinds of transport services and experiments,” Honkanen concludes.