Cities and Urbanization

This is the world’s best-prepared city for the future of urban transportation

Urban administrations can follow Helsinki’s footsteps with the World Economic Forum’s Urban Mobility Scorecard tool.

Urban administrations can follow Helsinki’s footsteps with the World Economic Forum’s Urban Mobility Scorecard tool. Image: Tapio Haaja/Unsplash

Thea de Gallier
Senior Writer, Forum Agenda
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Cities and Urbanization

This article is part of: World Economic Forum Annual Meeting
  • Helsinki has topped rankings as the world’s most future-ready city for urban transport thanks to government funding, electric vehicle use and public transport.
  • The capital of Finland is aiming for all vehicles in the city to be electric by 2030.
  • Urban administrations can follow Helsinki’s footsteps with the World Economic Forum’s Urban Mobility Scorecard tool.

To ensure they’re ready for future expansion, cities around the world may want to look to Helsinki as a leading example.

The Finnish capital topped the rankings in research by the Oliver Wyman Forum and the University of California, Berkeley, as the city most prepared for the future of urban mobility.

Thanks to large investments in transport infrastructure, Helsinki emerged as the leader in the fifth Urban Mobility Readiness Index – which ranks 65 cities. Amsterdam, Stockholm, San Francisco and Munich make up the rest of the top 5.

Helsinki And Amsterdam Remain Steady At The Top, While London And Tokyo Decline.
How cities compare in the Urban Readiness Index. Image: Oliver Wyman Forum

A reliable rail network, low-emission zones and extensive cycle paths mean citizens of Helsinki have plenty of other options apart from cars – and where cars are concerned, the city is aiming for 30% of all vehicles to be electric by 2030.

It is making solid progress towards this goal by installing hundreds of extra charging points, thanks to $14 million in funding from Finland’s central government.

Have you read?
Urban Mobility Readiness Index, Sustainable Mobility and Public Transit scores.
How cities compare in the Urban Mobility Readiness Index. Image: Oliver Wyman Forum

Collaboration with citizens

The work is not done yet, either. The city administration actively invites citizens to critique its plans and ideas to improve things further. Electric maritime transport and autonomous buses are two initiatives that have been put forward or trialled, with the latter an example of a collaboration with Norway. The neighbouring Nordic countries conducted a study on the effects of harsh winters on autonomous vehicles, showing commitment to ensuring they’re fit for purpose all year round.

The fact that walking is the top mode of transport in Helsinki, with 47% of residents opting to walk, is a testament to its easily navigated and safe streets. The second most popular mode of transport is public transport, with just under a quarter of residents using it, just ahead of private vehicles.

Road-based transport creates a fifth of EU-based carbon emissions, with cars the main contributor, generating 61% of that. A city where car usage is lower than other methods is greener and also has effective alternative modes of transport.

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How is the World Economic Forum promoting sustainable and inclusive mobility systems?

Pedal power

Amsterdam, which came second in the rankings, shows a similar picture. Already famous for its cycle lanes, the network is still expanding. The city wants 35% of all journeys to be made by bicycle by 2030, and, like Helsinki, is broadening infrastructure for electric vehicles, too. Its aim is to have 80,000 charging points in place by the decade’s end, an almost ten-fold increase on the 9,600 it had in 2020.

Stockholm also shows a preference for walking, cycling or public transport, with the city estimating 75-80% of journeys are taken this way. Again, this is largely down to availability and effective infrastructure, with affordable public transport options, electric buses, and expansion of charging stations. Urban planning also plays a part, with short distances and easy walking routes between stations and destinations making car travel the least convenient option.

Measuring urban mobility

It’s estimated that by 2050, 70% of people globally will live in cities and urban areas. The World Economic Forum is committed to facilitating initiatives to increase sustainable transport options and future-proof urban areas. Urban administrations can follow in Helsinki’s footsteps with the Forum’s Urban Mobility Scorecard tool – a questionnaire written after an extensive, collaborative consultation process with stakeholders in the Global New Mobility Coalition.

What makes urban mobility sustainable?
What makes urban mobility sustainable? Image: World Economic Forum Urban Mobility Scorecard

The scorecard assesses three key pillars: governance, resilience and connectivity. Each pillar is then divided into further criteria.

Governance looks at the efforts by the city administration to make mobility sustainable, accessible, and future-ready – funding and planning are key here. Resilience requires “safe, efficient movement of people and goods” and well-planned space allocation. Connectivity looks at how effectively the transport network covers the city, and its effectiveness as an alternative to cars. This is often the stumbling block for other cities and countries when it comes to reducing car use – the alternative transport infrastructure isn’t good enough, or isn’t there.

In Helsinki’s case, the results are clear. With collaboration, adequate funding and consideration of residents’ needs, change is possible, and certainly for the better.

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The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

Related topics:
Cities and UrbanizationSustainable DevelopmentDavos Agenda
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