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Capital of Finland

Helsinki is located in the south of Finland. It is the country’s capital and most populated city with almost 625,000 inhabitants. With a metropolitan population of 1.4 million, it is also the most populated urban area of the country. Helsinki is Finland’s major political, financial, cultural and research centre and produces one third of Finland’s GDP. The public transport system consists of trams, commuter rail, subways, bus lines, two ferry lines and on-demand minibuses. Helsinki is the only city in Finland that has trams and metro trains.

Overall Grade: C- 71%

Pie Chart 71
  • Graph Reduction Success Local Emissions
  • Graph Low Emission Zones & Bans of High Emitters
  • Graph Public Procurement Clean Cars
  • Graph Non-Road Mobile Emission Sources
  • Graph Use of Economic Incentives
  • Graph Traffic & Mobility Management Incl. Modal Split
  • Graph Promotion of Public Transport
  • Graph Promotion of Walking & Cycling
  • Graph Transparency & Communication Policy


Reduction Success Local Emissions

Between 2006 and 2012, PM10 exceedance days dropped from 37 to only 6 at the traffic station Mannerheimintie. Accordingly, the PM10 annual mean values decreased from 30.0 µg/m³ in 2006 to 21.3 µg/m³ in 2012. At the same time, the number of exceedance days at the background station Kallio 2 declined from 10 to zero. Also the annual mean values are on a very low level and decreased from 16.6 µg/m³ to 12.7 µg/m³.

Until 2010, Helsinki had problems sticking to the annual EU NO2 limit of 40 µg/m³. While in 2006 N02 values at the traffic station were 42.2 µg/m³, they decreased from 2011 to a level of 36.5 µg/m³ in 2012. The background station could be lowered by nearly 20% from 23.9 µg/m³ to 19.8 µg/m³.

In Helsinki and Finland in general, air pollution problems are especially severe during spring because of usage of studded tires and loose chippings on streets in winter.

Low Emission Zones & Bans of High Emitters

Helsinki currently has two schemes that regulate the access of high emitters to the city centre. On the one hand, since May 2010 there is a Low Emission Zone (LEZ) that requires a minimum standard of Euro III for buses and Euro V for waste trucks. Passenger cars or other vehicles are not affected and have full access, because an LEZ suitability study in 2007 did not predict many advantages from restricting them. On the other hand, an access restriction to a different perimeter for lorries longer than 12 metres is in place.

The decrease in PM10 and NO2 values as well as the decreasing share bus emissions comprise of total particulate emissions since the introduction of the LEZ in 2010 indicate the possibility that these schemes had an impact.

Public Procurement Clean Cars

No information could be retrieved about the emission classes and number of municipal vehicles, apart from a requirement that, within the LEZ, waste vehicles are at least EURO V. On the public transport fleet, the Regional Transport Authority HSL published numbers showing that in 2013 there were about 1,400 buses, 55 metro trains, 130 trams, 120 commuter trains and 4 ferries. There was only very limited information on the EU emission classes of public transport vehicles. This information stated that busses in the LEZ have to be at least EURO III and that the city is investing in other cleaner-fuel buses.

Non-Road Mobile Emission Sources

No information could be retrieved about regional or local legislation concerning emissions from construction machinery.

On emissions from the port, the Port of Helsinki has an environmental principle saying to “use internal development work to reduce […] dust emissions as well as atmospheric emissions from our operations.”

Use of Economic Incentives

Helsinki has a limited range of economic incentives promoting public transport in general or electric mobility in particular. On parking management, Helsinki has three parking zones arranged in circles, in which parking cost between €1 and €4 per hour. Parking in Helsinki is charged in the city centre on weekdays and in the business centre also on Saturdays. In some streets in the city centre, you also have to pay on Sundays and holidays. For low-emission passenger cars, there are reduced parking fees with a permit.

No information could be retrieved about national or local subsidies for electric vehicles. Several studies investigating the impact and capability of congestion charging came to the conclusions that the impacts on congestion, air pollution, use of public transport and road safety would be positive. For example, pollutants harmful to health would be reduced by 8-18%. Unfortunately, the public transport capacity was deemed to be insufficient and there was no funding to improve it. Consequently, no final City Board decision has yet been made.

Traffic & Mobility Management Incl. Modal Split

The Helsinki Region Transport Authority envisages making public transport the number one choice for travelling within the city by 2025. In the framework of this strategy, Helsinki is undertaking a number of measures to strengthen public transport, walking and cycling, and reduce individual motorised transport through mobility management measures. Generally, current investments of about €1,300m per year in public transport, mobility management and infrastructure will be increased to adapt to, for example, public transport expansion plans.

So far, Helsinki seems to be able to achieve this aim and is continuously improving its modal split. While in 2000 the mode of walking had a share of 17%, this increased to 30% in 2010 and 34% in 2014. Bicycle use increased from 4% in 2000 and 9% in 2010 to 11% in 2014. The share of public transport was 20% in 2000, had an intermediate high of 38% in 2012 and dropped to 32% in 2014. The share of individual motorised transport was at a very low level of 19% in 2000, increased to an intermediate high of 31% in 2008, but managed to shrink back to 22% in 2014. Although the share of motorised individual transport is very low at the moment, the number of passenger cars per 1,000 inhabitants continuously rose from about 330 in 2000 to over 400 in 2012.

Speed limits in Helsinki are 120 km/h on motorways in (summer), 80 or 100 km/h on main roads and between 30 and 60 km/h on residential roads. The Helsinki has quite elaborate plans to improve Park & Ride connections and increase P&R parking spaces by 6,000 car and 8,000 bike spaces by 2025.

Promotion of Public Transport

Helsinki has a comprehensive public transport network with a diversity of private bus services, a new driverless metro, trams, trains and ferry services, most of which experience continuously growing demand. Only trams had a 1% decrease in passengers between 2012 and 2013. An expansion of the public transport is planned to be funded through investments in the trunk route network, hubs and priorities. However, no specific future route extension is formulated. In 2009 a new 18 km commuter Ring Rail Line began construction and is planned to begin its delayed operations in 2015. There are recommendations by the city to extend the tram network rather than the metro network. The ticketing system will be restructured in 2017 to be based on zones.

In the context of the transport vision for 2025, in which Helsinki wants to dispose of private vehicles, the Regional Transport Authority HSL has been trialling Kitsuplus, a minibus-on-demand service using a digital platform. The minibuses can be ordered online or via SMS and are priced between public transport and taxis. However, despite these innovative measures the share of public transport decreased rather than increased over the last years.

Promotion of Walking & Cycling

Helsinki has an extensive cycling network with 1,200 km of routes, 730 km of them paved. The entire metropolitan area is covered by 2,600 km of cycling routes. A public bicycle centre opened in 2012 and offers a range of services like emergency repairs, facilities for personal service checks and guarded parking spaces.

Having a cycling share of 11% among all modes of transport in 2014, the City of Helsinki aims to increase this share to 15% by 2020. To reach this aim, funding, currently at €6m, is proposed to be raised to €20m annually, which would ensure that the expansion of the cycling route network in the inner-city will be finished by 2018 and other new cycling corridors by 2025. A comprehensive bike sharing scheme was discontinued due to funding and vandalism issues.

In 2014, a research and development plan was launched by the city looking into ways to encourage walking. Another paper is planned that will look at expanding the pedestrian network in the city centre, especially focusing on extreme weather conditions.

Transparency & Communication Policy

The Helsinki Region Environmental HSY website provides information on air quality and provides a semi-interactive map and a general contact for citizen questions. Data on air quality, traffic, etc. is available through an online database called Helsinki Environmental Statistics. Furthermore, there is a webpage on current and previous hourly air quality levels in Finland that the HSY website guides the visitor to. Also, there is information on measuring stations, but no background information of air pollutants and so on. The only possibility for contact is via an email address.

Helsinki Region Environmental Services Authority HSY (Eng.):
was published too late to be considered in the ranking