Public transport in Helsinki
Public transport in Helsinki consists of bus, tram, metro, train, and ferry services. The system is managed by Helsinki Region Transport (HSL/HRT) and covers Helsinki, Espoo, Kauniainen, Vantaa and the outlying Kerava, Kirkkonummi and Sipoo.
Today, Helsinki is the only city in Finland to have access to trams or subway trains. There used to be two other cities in Finland with trams: Turku and Vyborg. However, Turku abandoned trams in 1972 and Vyborg, which was at that time already part of the USSR, abandoned them in 1957.
Of commuting trips within the city limits of Helsinki 50% are made using public transport and only 28% using a car while 48% of the households have access to a car. The ridership is typical to a European city, but if Helsinki were in U.S., it would have the second highest ridership after New York. Partly due to lack of trams or rapid transit outside the Helsinki Region, the ridership in other cities in Finland is significantly lower.
The Helsinki Metro, opened in 1982, was the first, and so far the only, subway-system in all of Finland. For the first 16 years of its existence, the line was topologically only one straight line, but in 1998 a fork with three stations each was added at the eastern end of the line.
The metro serves only the eastern suburbs and some areas close to the city center. Other areas are served by regional and suburban trains that cover all of the capital region and smaller cities and towns as far north as Riihimäki and Lahti and as far west as Karis (Karjaa). Most routes have a headway of 10 or 15 minutes the last trains departuring from Helsinki city center only after 1 am, or 4 am on weekend nights. Cities within a longer distance from Helsinki, like Riihimäki, Hyvinkää, Järvenpää, Lahti or Karjaa have longer headways up to one hour and often more limited operating hours.
In 2006 the construction of the long debated extension of the subway system west into southern parts of Espoo (Esbo) was approved in Espoo City Council, and serious debate about an eastern extension to Sipoo (Sibbo) has taken place. To cope with the rising usage the Helsinki Metro is also planned to be further automated by the end of 2015, replacing the old traffic control system with a newer one to allow shorter train intervals, although with shorter trains.
Long-distance trains depart from the Central Railway Station and Pasila station to destinations across Finland. Pendolino trains offer higher speed connections to major cities, as do Intercity and Intercity2 trains at slightly slower speeds.
A tunnel has been proposed to connect Helsinki with Tallinn, though the proposal is still in the investigation phase. Ring Rail Line (Kehärata), a project to connect Helsinki-Vantaa Airport with the national rail network and downtown Helsinki, has been approved and construction should have been completed by 2015.
Core bus lines
In August 2013 HRT launched the first core bus transport service, the line 550. The core lines are meant to provide metro-like transport with highly frequent services and a distinguishable fleet. There are many more such lines to come in the near future.
Regular bus lines
Internal bus routes of Helsinki can be found almost anywhere in Helsinki. For some parts of the city, even high-density, these buses provide the backbone of the public transportation system.
The routes are drawn and the timetables set by HRT, but operated by independent companies. HRT tenders a route or a set of routes and the company offering to operate the route for the best quality-price ratio will get the contract. The quality is measured with a pointing system which gives points for such aspects as the quietness, environmental efficiency and the size of the buses that would be used. The biggest bus operators are Nobina Finland, Veolia Transport Finland and Helsingin Bussiliikenne (HelB). These companies run a majority of the contract services. One rapidly expanding company is the VR (state rail) owned Pohjolan Liikenne, which has recently been very successful with the tendering. Mostly the expansion has been at the cost of HelB.
Many of the buses operating in eastern Helsinki act as feeder lines for the Helsinki Metro. Nearly all other routes have the other end of their lines in the downtown near the Helsinki Central railway station. Such exceptions are present as dedicated lines operating directly from a suburb to another past the centre (for example Helsinki buses 51-54, 56-59).
The line numbers for the internal lines contain two digits and for some a letter.
Most lines are operated between 5:30 and 23:30, the most popular between 5:00 and 1:30. In daytime outside of rush hours the basic interval for buses is mostly either 10, 15, 20, 30 or 60 minutes depending on the length and the demand of the line. Nighttime lines which operate only from 23:30 to 1:30 (and sometimes early morning) are signified by letter N. Recently the tradition of having designated night routes has been broken and replaced with N-variants of daytime routes.
Other letters include:
A: lengthened or clockwise-circular route
B: shortened or anti-clockwise-circular route
K: exception in route, often insignificant
T: trams to terminal (4T, 6T), 100-series buses via Lauttasaari
V: faster or more direct route
Helsinki bus terminals include Kamppi (surface area), Rautatientori, Elielinaukio and Hakaniemi. Larger metro stations have their own feeder bus terminals.
Outside Helsinki, routes staying within a city have two numbers as well. HRT is abolishing this by renumbering the routes within the decade.
The regional bus lines are today managed by HRT in similar manner to the management of the internal lines of Helsinki. The regional lines are specially designed for moving people between important points in the metropolitan area and for the sole purpose of getting to downtown Helsinki. These lines tend to use the fastest possible way to get out of Helsinki, usually through motorways.
Lines from southern Espoo terminate at Kampin Keskus, the ones from central Espoo and western Vantaa terminate at Elielinaukio and the ones from northern Vantaa and Kerava terminate at Rautatientori. The last two mentioned are located next to the central railway station.
The operating hours for regional lines are similar to those of internal lines, but the departures are often not as frequent.
At most times, the line numbers are composed of three digits and occasionally a letter or two accompanying them. Two-number regional lines are rare, and thus far only two have been created: 39 Kamppi-Myyrmäki and 74 Hakaniemi-Porttipuisto (IKEA).
Helsinki's tram network has been operated continuously with electric drive since 1900 and it is mostly of a traditional type, with all of the tramways located on the streets, on both dedicated tram lanes and in mixed traffic. The network covers the densely populated central districts and some of the adjacent areas, but it has been expanded only very modestly after the 1950s. The network is composed of 12 lines. Over 50 million trips are made with the trams each year.
The trams are managed and operated by HKL. Line numbers are 1-10 and for some an accompanying letter. All routes except 8 run through some part of the city centre.
The newest route is no. 9, opened in August 2008.
The metro is the backbone of the public transportation for East Helsinki. The system consists of a single line with two branches and it currently has 17 stations. A 7-station, 14-kilometer extension to Espoo in the west is under construction and scheduled to be completed by 2015. Also by 2015, all trains should have been converted to driverless operation.
The metro is managed and operated by HKL.
The commuter train system is the backbone for the areas northeast and northwest from downtown. The network reaches relatively far from Helsinki with metro-like services from Helsinki to Kerava, Vantaankoski and Kauklahti. The network is managed by HRT and operated by VR. Trains not managed by HRT reach even further, all the way to Lahti, Riihimäki and Karis.
Helsinki has two ferry lines, both operated by Suomenlinnan Liikenne Oy. Ferries connect Suomenlinna to the mainland. The ferries are the only connection to the mainland for the residents of Suomenlinna, though a tunnel for emergency vehicle access is in place. Another line departs from Market Square and the another from Katajanokka.
The public transportation system has three zones: internal, regional (two zones) and the whole region (three zones). Internal covers a single city and regional the Helsinki metropolitan area or the whole area without Helsinki. The whole region covers the Helsinki metropolitan area and additionally the Kerava, Kirkkonummi and Sipoo municipalities. The different areas are symbolised by different colours: Blue signifies Helsinki, green signifies Espoo and Kauniainen, red signifies Vantaa and purple signifies the entire metropolitan area.
The transport system offers a vast number of different tickets and several ways to get them.
Single fare tickets can be bought from bus drivers, tram operators, automats, and by a text message. Text message tickets are only valid on the metro and its feeder lines, trams, commuter trains within Helsinki, the ferry to Suomenlinna, and Helsinki bus 78. Each metro station and ferry stop is equipped with at least one ticket automat; most railway stations are, too.
Most users of the public transport have a Travel Card, an RFID card used as an electronic ticket. Users can load period and value on their cards. Period ticket offers unlimited travel for the dates paid for. Value is used to pay for one trip, which may contain changes. The price of a single trip is lower when paid with the travel card instead of buying a single fare ticket.
Internal single trip tickets are valid for one hour (for the eastern and north eastern feeder lines 80 minutes). For regional tickets the transfer time is 80 minutes or 100 minutes for the ticket covering the whole region.
The transport system uses the proof-of-payment approach for fare collection for the metro, local trains, trams and ferries. In the buses the driver checks the tickets as passenger step in. Ticket controllers check tickets on randomly selected vehicles and a penalty fee of 80 EUR and a price of a single ticket is charged from any passenger without a valid ticket. If a passenger has forgotten his/her Travel Card with valid travel period, the passenger may later visit a service point of the transport company and will not have to pay the penalty fee.
- Survey on perception of quality of life in 75 European cities (published by European Commission in 2009)
- www.lansimetro.fi - an information portal dedicated to the West Metro expansion in the Helsinki capital region.
-  - information about the core transport service plans in Finnish.
-  - Some high-density (3500+/km2) suburbs such as Munkkivuori, Pihlajisto, Itä-Pakila and Latokartano are currently served only by buses.
-  - a news article about the a recent result of the tender, with the largest companies mentioned.
-  - information about a recent HSL tender, with HelB losing all its current lines
-  - information on the mobile phone ticket.
- Information on public transport in 2009-2010 See page 32 for "Penalty Fare"
- Helsinki Regional Transport Authority
- Journey Planner for the Helsinki region
- Helsinki.fi - Information about transportation and maps in Helsinki region