The task of the public transport planner is to make public transport in the Helsinki metropolitan area attractive. Not all changes please.
Outraged In recent weeks, citizens have publicly resolved their frustration with Helsinki Region Transport (HSL).
Buses have been relocated to new routes, lines have been shut down, and stops have been shut down. Some people have admitted to moving from the bus bench to the wheel of the car.
“If a public transport planner were to walk the new stops, wouldn’t this nonsense ease?” wrote a reader at the end of August on the HS opinion pages.
Who is planning changes to public transport and on what grounds?
To the phone responds with a calm voice from the home office in Myyrmäki, Vantaa.
Aleksi Manninen is one of HSL ‘s approximately ten public transport planners, each with its own area of responsibility.
Manninen’s plot has bus traffic in Herttoniemi and Laajasalo in Helsinki. So he has not been influencing, for example, the much-talked-about Hague line reform.
In practice, however, the designers, together with their own work, determine which lines and stops the townspeople use.
Manninen knows the things behind the public transport reforms, and now he explains how the changes will take place.
Large implementing changes is not an everyday part of life even for designers.
Renovation projects lasting from a few months to more than a year bring variety to the usual work tasks, ie planning summer and winter schedules.
On his typical working day, as today, Manninen finds out from eight to four how exactly the traffic has gone and how well the schedules have served the mobile people.
If necessary, he fine-tunes the current schedules and, based on the data, calculates the driving times and schedules for the next season.
“It’s our basic business.”
There is no hurry for next summer’s schedules yet. Deadline is at the beginning of the year, when operators need information to plan shifts and fleet use.
Significant changes, such as new routes or the need for additional equipment, are decided by HSL’s Board of Directors.
City politicians sit on the board, and the Helsinki Coalition Party will speak there Risto Rautava.
“We are responsible for the preparation and bring up alternatives,” Manninen says.
Representatives of the cities are involved in the preparatory work, and customer feedback is also essential.
That is why Manninen is not surprised, for example, by the negative publicity received by the line reform in The Hague.
“It’s part of the process, and I think this isn’t just about HSL and public transport. Isn’t this a little related to everything that happens in the city. ”
When changes are made, the starting point is always to improve public transport and its attractiveness as a mode of transport, Manninen says.
However, the work is also guided by the strategies defined by the management, the goals set by the owners and the given budget.
And now HSL’s finances are in check.
The reason for the weak economic situation is the corona epidemic, which has expelled passengers and collapsed ticket revenues.
HSL, owned by nine municipalities in the Helsinki region, covers roughly half of its expenses with ticket revenue and the rest with tax funds, among other things.
Currently, HSL is trying to lure passengers back on board buses, trains, metros and trams with a historic discount campaign.
In the media the line reform debate easily gives the impression that HSL is not listening to its customers.
However, according to Manninen, this is not the case.
HSL engages in dialogue with current and potential future users of public transport in a variety of ways: through surveys, blog posts, workshops, and resident events.
“We aim to map residents’ views and pain points during the preparation phase. Then you have to think about the best way to get information, ”says Manninen.
According to him, for example, a presentation is often not the most effective way to tune a conversation.
However, the importance of involving residents and communicating change has been emphasized recently.
Changes the feedback that comes after is not usually a surprise to the public transport planner. It has been expected.
“If it comes as a surprise, you have to see where it went wrong.”
For customers, on the other hand, the changes are more often surprising. Some people only wake up when the changes materialize when they take effect.
“Our channels may not be monitored very actively, and if change has weakened something in its own right, of course it will raise emotions and feedback will come.”
Because people have many different needs and views, for one change can be a weakening but for another an improvement, Manninen says.
Feedback, however, cannot be underestimated, he said, because public transport is meant to serve everyone.
HSL according to Manninen’s estimates, receives 300-400 feedback on everything possible every day.
“Often the feedback that comes with planning is related to, for example, the fact that someone thinks the departure is at the wrong time. They will then try to change the tipping points in the schedules. ”
The public transport planner also walks on the field to look for possible problem areas himself, Manninen says.
“We travel quite a lot in our own design areas, even if our own everyday life revolves around somewhere else. There you can make small observations, for example, that a departure is always late, very full or there is no sign at the stop. ”
He says he is using public transport actively anyway.
“Virtually all trips in the metropolitan area also during the Korona period. But now it’s got a car to get to the cabin. ”
Do customers ever say anything positive?
“There’s a lot to be missed and personal, but there are also small individual things that come to mind, such as getting someone off to a shift or making an awkward school trip easier.”
HSL in 2019–2020
In 2020, HSL’s customers gave public transport an overall rating of 4.16 on a scale of 1 to 5. The most satisfied were the metro passengers.
More than 390 million journeys were made in public transport in the Helsinki region in 2019.
In 2020, HSL’s passenger numbers decreased by about 40 percent from the 2019 level.
The most used means of transport in the Helsinki region is the bus. It makes almost half of the trips.
HSL’s result last year was almost EUR 72 million in deficit.
HSL raised € 243.3 million in ticket revenue in 2020. That’s € 148 million below budget.
The occupancy rate for public transport was 10 per cent in 2020 and about 25,350 departures by various means of transport on weekdays.
This is how the line reform that The Hague spoke proceeded
August – September 2019
HSL surveyed the number of passengers boarded the buses and the load data on the bus lines, and collected data on the number of inhabitants and jobs and their changes.
It carried out a survey in which people in The Hague, Hakuninmaa, Kannelmäki, Kuninkaantammi, Lassila and Maununneva had their say on public transport in the area.
The survey collected about 5,200 respondents. Free-form feedback was provided by 1,800 respondents.
September – October 2019
HSL drafted the Hague Line. The design work was carried out by five HSL experts and was led by a group that also included a representative of the City of Helsinki.
HSL presented the draft line in The Hague at a residents’ event at the White House in North The Hague. The event was attended by 190 people.
HSL edited the first draft based on feedback from residents.
October – November 2019
The draft line in The Hague was for comment by public transport users on HSL’s blog. Comments could also be submitted through HSL’s feedback system and customer service.
The blog collected about 50,000 reads and about 1,000 comments.
HSL’s Board of Directors approved the Hague Outline Plan at its meeting.
February – May 2021
HSL’s working group made more detailed schedule planning.
The changes took effect.