MY TWO CENTS: Niina Kuusanniemi-Abbotts
Public transport should be as easy, convenient and flexible as owning a car. But instead we are still stuck with a transport system that hasn’t changed much since the car was first invented. Why should we have to own a car anyway – it spends 95% of its existence parked, blocking up our cities and polluting our air when it actually does move. I want a smart solution to moving from A to B when I need to, in the most appropriate way. What we need is a transport revolution!
Even the automobile industry has already recognised that car ownership isn’t the status symbol it used to be. Younger generations aren’t interested in accumulating ever more stuff; they’re interested in greater personal mobility and choice, not the hassle of maintaining an expensive lump of metal on wheels.
So what is the answer? One solution attracting a lot of international attention is a concept being spearheaded by Helsinki, called “Mobility as a Service”. While the concept is familiar within industry and smart city circles, what makes the Helsinki model stand out is that Helsinki has a roadmap to actually making it a reality by 2025. A small taste of the future is the Kutsuplus on-demand bus service, which has attracted 20,000 registered customers during it’s first year.
The Mobility as a service vision is, however, much grander. The key idea is that you will be able buy a mobility package via your smart phone, with a price package to suit your needs – for example, €100 per month for free public transport in your home city area, 100 km of free taxis and up to 500 km of rental car use. If you still want to own a car, then you could cut your costs through sharing rides and renting it out to other people when you don’t need it yourself.
The potential gains are huge. Not only will this transport revolution lessen congestion and pollution, but it will also be a catalyst for new business growth. The average consumer in developed countries spends €500 per month on transport, meaning that the potential revenue for an operator taking care of all consumer mobility needs is significant. There is great potential for job creation too – according to calculations by Intelligent Transport Systems Finland, as many as 20,000 new jobs could result from implementing Mobility as a Service. Many of these jobs will be in the fields of mobile ICT and software, fields where Finland has deep expertise and – due the adventures of Nokia – plentifully available talent.
It’s an exciting time. The foundations of the transport revolution are being laid here, in Helsinki. The city is strongly committed to making Mobility as a Service a reality, an innovative band of smart mobility startups are creating the needed solutions and business models, and big businesses from automobile and ICT sectors are eyeing up Helsinki as the place to develop new smart products and services. Even Silicon Valley is looking at the Helsinki model to see what lessons they can learn.
Time to buckle up and enjoy the ride!
All MY TWO CENTS: helsinkitimes.fi/columns/my-two-cents