Navigation apps can tell you how to get across town using only public transportation, but they don’t make it a seamless experience. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could pay for bikes, buses and trains from a single app? If Helsinki has its way, you might. The Finnish city plans to test a transportation mesh that will not only show you how to get from point A to point B using multiple public methods, but let you pay for it all in one shot through software or a website. A few companies will help launch the trial run in the Vallila neighborhood around the end of the year, with expansions to other areas over time.
The Finnish capital has announced plans to transform its existing public transport network into a comprehensive, point-to-point “mobility on demand” system by 2025 – one that, in theory, would be so good nobody would have any reason to own a car. Helsinki aims to transcend conventional public transport by allowing people to purchase mobility in real time, straight from their smartphones. The hope is to furnish riders with an array of options so cheap, flexible and well-coordinated that it becomes competitive with private car ownership not merely on cost, but on convenience and ease of use. Subscribers would specify an origin and a destination, and perhaps a few preferences. The app would then function as both journey planner and universal payment platform, knitting everything from driverless cars and nimble little buses to shared bikes and ferries into a single, supple mesh of mobility. Imagine the popular transit planner Citymapper fused to acycle hire service and a taxi app such as Hailo or Uber, with only one payment required, and the whole thing run as a public utility, and you begin to understand the scale of ambition here.