THANK YOU FINLAND ON YOUR HUNDREDTH ANNIVERSARY OF INDEPENDENCE AND EXEMPLARITY: Efficiency, equity, education, democracy, environment, accomplishment, modesty and fresh ideas . . . (You’d be singing too)

Part I: Flashmob in Helsinki

A flashmob choral intrusion that took place on one more winter day in the main train station of Helsinki, the capital of Finland. But what are they singling about?

(A flash mob (just to recall and in case you were out shopping at the time) is an unannounced event involving, by all appearance,s an unrelated group of people who suddenly emerge from the shadows and assemble in a public place, perform an unusual and unexplained act for a brief time, then quickly disperse and continue on their ways.  As you can just see here.)

Part II. A Finnish story

A bit of context in case you your Finnish history needs a reminder. Here you have a brief  introductory text (quickly translate, apologies) to an excellent  one hour documentary that has just appeared on Arte, the French/German public television. (Sadly not yet available in English, so you can test your French, German, Finnish and the striking images which tell a story of their own.)

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Helsinki: Toward a “Better than car” transportation system

World Streets readers will certainly want to stay on top of this project of the city of Helsinki to come up with what we call a “better than car transportation system”. The excerpts just below taken  from an article published in the Guardian yesterday will lead you to the full piece. There is a mild irony to the extent to which the “technological core” of the project has to do with the mobility arrangements which have been receiving steady, and happily increasing, attention since the mid-1960s, namely DRT or Dial-a-Ride. The massive change elements which fundamentally transform and scale up the basic DRT of long past operational system is a combination of close to universal mobile phones, abounding apps, and Big Data. That plus a good dose of public entrepreneurship and outreach changes everything. We invite you to have a look and to share your thoughts with us about this intriguing real world adventure.

Helsinki, Finland.

Urban mobility, rethought … Helsinki, Finland. Photograph: Hemis/Alamy

Free-for-all: Cities/Organizations around the world supporting free public transport

The following listing of organizations around the world that are “fighting for free public transport” has been compiled by the Swedish activist group Free Public Transport, whose aim is to provide a global forum for the free public transport movement. Their website among other things provides information about local organizations around the world fighting for free public transport, as well as cities which have already implemented it. For their latest listing, click to http://freepublictransports.com/organization/.

free pub transport - Doschdesign

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The Equity Initiative

africa girls in trafficThe goal of this open collaborative project and crowd sourcing exercise, which spans the period January 2012 to December 2013, is to organize, hold and report on a series of public dialogues in a certain number of host cities and government groups on different continents, meeting with and seeking out  the views of a broad cross-section  of people, groups and interests who are ready to brainstorm on  the concept of equity as a potential base for a new transport paradigm and  strategy for the city.
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Late Night Thoughts on Equity

mobility-egg2Equity? Hmm. This, it turns out on inspection,  is not quite so easy a concept to get across. In English  it’s already tough enough.  And as I have learned somewhat painfully, it gets  even more challenging in many other languages. Here are some late night thoughts on this word that I share with you in the hope it may inspire comments and clarification. So here you have my notes, more or less in the order that they came to mind late in the night.

– – – > For more on the Equity Agenda click here.

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The Helsinki Process

finland equity report coverIn the last months of 2011 subject to a series of preparatory discussions, the author was invited to work with the support of a small team of professionals under the direction of the City Planning  Department /Transportation in order to organize, carry out, and as appropriate follow up on these open public conversations.  We spent close to two months laying the base for the public discussion stage of the project.

During the two weeks in Helsinki we met with almost 200 people representing a broad cross-section of interests and points of view,  organized and participated in on the order of twenty interviews and  brainstorming dialogues, three half-day master class sessions, and on 27 April a final plenary presentation organized to present and invite first feedback and recommendations on this intensive process.  The final presentation was followed by a session of questions from the audience and general discussion, with a brief closing summary of observations and findings made by the Deputy Mayor of Helsinki Pekka Sauri, in charge of Public Works and Environmental Affairs for the city.

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Editorial: On the plane to Helsinki (March 2012/March 2013)

One year almost ot the day after the start-up of the first Helsinki project, I have carefully reviewed this original article, slightly rewritten it for clarity, but above all have added a fair number of observations, questions and cautions by distinguished colleagues following  this project in many parts of the world. Valuable food for thought for  anyone who wishes to  get a handle on some of the fundamental issues to be considered for eventual equity-based transportation reform.

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A “Better than Car” Mobility System

how should I get there - smallNobody is going to willingly  step down on the scale of comfort and economy. Fair enough, so let’s see how we can all step UP in terms of  life quality for all  with an equity-based transport strategy.

The objective here is to combine vision, policy, technology and entrepreneurial skills in such a way to create and make available to all a combined, affordable, multi-level, convenient, high choice  mobility system which for just about everybody should be more efficient than owning and driving a car in or into town.  Let us start with this as our goal and then see what is the work that must be done in order to turn it into a reality.

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2013 Work Program Highlights

In the following you will find brief introductions to the selected major policy areas around which we intend to focus and organize our work program over the year ahead. For more you are invited to click the title lines in each case, which will take you directly to the full set of materials and articles thus far developed on that broad topic area under our work program since the first issues of World Streets appeared in the opening days of 2009. Continue reading

Examining the prospects for Equity-Based Transportation: A Public Enquiry lead by the City of Helsinki

Final HELSINKI report and peer review invitation

Executive Summary

finlan-Helsinki-EBT-Report-coverObjective:  An independent project lead by Eric Britton under the sponsorship of the Department of City Planning/Transportation of the City of Helsinki, the goal of this first phase was to initiate a broad-based public inquiry and open discussion of the concept of equity as a possible keystone for a new paradigm for transport policy and investment in Helsinki and beyond  — and to determine if there is support for taking the first round of findings at least one step further. Continue reading

Late Night Thoughts on Equity from Helsinki

Equity? Hmm. This, it turns out on inspection,  is not quite so easy a concept to get across. In English, and after two days of discussions with a wide variety of groups and people here in Helsinki, it’s already tough enough.  And I have learned, it’s  even more challenging in Finnish. Here are some late night thoughts on this word that I share with you here in the hope that it may inspire comments and clarification. So here you have my notes, more or less in the order that they came to mind late in the night.  Continue reading

Editorial: On the plane to Helsinki

I have always thought of myself not as a consultant – that is, someone with specific expertise to whom you ask directed questions and who gives you what you think/hope are the right answers – but rather as an “advisor”, i.e. someone whose role it is to sit next to you for a certain period of time and draw your attention to a certain number of things to which you might wish to give a closer look. (NB. My experience shows that it is usually a lot more comfortable to work with consultants.)

So here I am just about to get on the plane for Helsinki where I shall be working and meeting over the next two weeks with a couple of hundred people, almost all Finns, in individual meetings and group and plenary sessions as you can find spelled out elsewhere on this site – and through all of that to talk together about equity and transport, private actions and public policy. Continue reading

Equity/Transport 2012: Road map for Helsinki Stage 1

This collaborative project takes the form of an “open conversation” looking into the pros and cons, the possibilities, barriers and perhaps eventual impossibilities, of creating an equity-based transportation system at the level of a city and its surrounding region. This first pioneering project, in what we hope will become a series of leading world city projects building on this first example, is being carried out under the leadership of the Helsinki Department of City Planning and Transportation, and is taking place over the period mid-February through mid-April 2912. (You will find further working papers and supporting media sources in the second half of this introduction.)

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Pasi Sahlberg on Equity and Education in Finland

In January 2012, Finnish educator and author Pasi Sahlberg visited Stanford University to discuss his recent book, Finnish Lessons: What Can the World Learn from Educational Change in Finland?, and participate in a conference on the U.S. and Finnish education systems. After the lecture, he sat down with us to talk about the policies and practices behind the so-called “Finnish miracle” and the central role of equity in Finland’s school reform. Continue reading

Weekend pause: Equitable Music Flash from a Train Station in Helsinki

In the main rail station in Helsinki, host to the first Equity/Transport Civil Society project, a musical event that can help us to understand.

And should you wish some print background information on the city of Helsinki and its population, in addition to the usual useful synopsis offered by Wikipedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Helsinki you can click here for a summary presentation prepared by the city.

Shortly we shall be presenting here as well information on the transport and mobility scene, including the good, the bad and the ugly (where we find it). But in the meantime it’s the weekend and you may wish to kick back and listen to Finlandia again.

And the lark of morning in the brightness sings,

Equity-based Educational Reform in Finland

In the Helsinki stage of our on-going Equity/Transport program and process, it is particularly important that we have and share a clear understanding of the manner in which the equity-base education reform process has transformed Finland’s schools over the last decades from middling to world level (See OECD PISA results for verification). To this end we are gathering and presenting here a selection of reports and articles that help us in this respect. The following report was prepared by Mrs. Lorraine Frassinelli Ell in 2006, and while six years have intervened since she completed it, the paper still provides a good synopsis and expert outsider view of the Finnish experience from someone working internationally in the field of educational reform and measurement. Continue reading

Equity-Based Transportation Planning, Policy and Practice: First Helsinki project announcement

This week we initiate work on the first stages of preparatory organization in support of an “open conversation” looking into the pros and cons, the possibilities and eventual impossibilities,  of creating an equity-based transportation system at the level of a city and the surrounding region.  This first pioneering project, in which we hope will become a series of leading world city projects building on this first example, is being carried out under the leadership of  the Helsinki Department of City Planning and Transportation, and is running over the period mi-February through mid-April.

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EQUITY/TRANSPORT READING ROOM. V1

Here you have the beginning of a basically unstructured reading list of articles and books that dig from a wide variety of angles into the complex but oh so important issues that underlie the concept of an equity-based transport systems and policy. In time we will organize this with greater rigor and more detail (but not too much, time is so important), but here you have it today as a useful first reference point, in addition to those you have yourself.  Continue reading

Sustainability and Equity: A Better Future for All?

Today we step back and look beyond our usual sectoral concerns, and consider what this important report from the UNDP released today may or may not offer to help us to understand in our up-hill push to sustainable transport and sustainable cities. At first glance, their linking of sustainability and equality as their main theme this year is right in line with our own policy focus. So let’s have a look to see what lessons we might learn from their work and perceptions. Continue reading