Helsinki Focus Group Workshops – First guidelines

The Focus Workshops are a central pillar of the March 2021 collaborative enquiry: Examining the prospects for Equity-Based Transportation Practice in Helsinki.  This open dialogue  is hosted by the Helsinki Department of City Planning and Transportation in collaboration with a wide range of local stakeholder groups.

Summary info on Focus Workshops:

  • Dates: 15 – 27 March 2012
  • Invitational  event (See Contact below)
  • Timing:  Each workshop lasts from one to one and a half hours, at the choice of the Focus Group
  • Address:  Kansakoulukatu 1 A FI-00099 City of Helsinki. Room number: XXX
  • Contact: Taneli Nissinen, Traffic Engineer, City of Helsinki.  (9) 310 37091


This is basically a relatively modest and straight-forward  project.  The goal is to organize a series of open peer discussions for the city looking at the basic principle of an Equity-Based Transportation System to see if these exchanges can yield any insights that might be useful for policy, planning or project purposes.

The involvement of local stakeholders (user groups, transport service providers, academia, government, private sector groups, NGOs) in the fact-finding and decision-making processes is central to improving the responsiveness of transport planning, policy and investments  to a broad set of users, as well as making the best use of limited public resources. These interests range from such traditional concerns as mobility and congestion to a wide range of non-traditional concerns such as climate, social equity, economic development, competitiveness, institutional effects, environment and participatory democracy.

For more consult the main website at We particularly  recommend you have a look at the program summary First Helsinki project announcement, along with the Working Papers that are being collected here.  You also may find useful background in the supporting social media site at

Quick comment on the Equity theme:

The basic concept of equity, which is not to be confused with equality, no matter how important that might be, rather has to do with concepts such as fairness, social inclusion, compassion, decency and, perhaps above all, equality of opportunity and access.  The goal of the project is not to “sell” the equity theme as a basic organizing principle for the restructuring of mobility services in the city, but rather to examine together and discuss the concept and its eventual ramifications, with a view to providing a range of independent visions and eventual guidelines for public policy and own action.


The goal of each workshop is (a) to open up the dialogue with a brief presentation by the project team of the main thoughts and findings on the topic of the equity/transport approach to transportation policy. Following this, the stakeholder team is given the floor in order to (b) share their views and comment on the equity theme as an eventual policy tool for future planning and investment purposes (pro, con, other), then (c) to discuss what might be better and worse points of public policy and the existing  mobility arrangements as seen from their specific equity perspective. Followed by (d) more general comments on the overall transport system of the city as seen from a global equity perspective.

What we hope to gain and share from these exchanges and messages to the policy makers in the city is to give them access to a wide range of views and recommendations on the topic of equity as a policy, which can subsequently be widely shared and further discussed.

2012 Master Class Session Themes:

A main goal of the workshops is to see if the participating group is ready to accept the invitation to participate in the Master Classes which are being held from 21 – 23 March in the auditorium of the Helsinki Department of City Planning and Transportation. Each participating group is invited to make a short presentation to the Master Class of their main findings, recommendations  and position on the subject, followed by an open discussion and questions from the audience and the organizers.

21 March:  People First: User Groups (Facts, inequities, toward equity)

  • Car owners/drivers (+/-)
  • Public transport users
  • Marooned users: Poorly served areas, penalizing economics, unfair travel times, housebound
  • Elderly and handicapped (in a graying society)
  • Cyclists, pedestrians, hawkers, talkers and gawkers (i.e., transport and other uses)

22 March:  Service suppliers – Examples and potentials

  • Cars, streets and parking (The good, the bad and the ugly)
  • Public transport innovations for greater equity
  • Share/Transport: Taxis , carsharing, ridesharing, paratransit
  • Safe streets and social space strategies
  • Movement reduction: Planning and electronic

23 March:  Facilitators (Gov , media)

  • Mayor, city council, local government and agencies
  • Political parties (all)
  • Public interest groups (such as Demos, Dodo)
  • Schools and universities – Creating a culture of equity
  • Media (old and new, including blogging, social media, etc.)
  • How to spread the equity virus in Finland and beyond

 (This listing  is provisional and under continuous updating. For the latest please consult here.)


The project keys on a series of brainstorming sessions organized over the month of March 2012, with a team working under the aegis of the Helsinki Department of City Planning and Transportation, meeting and exchanging ideas and proposals with a cross-section of individuals and groups, government, private sector and volunteer organizations, to examine together what the transportation system of the city and its surrounding areas might look like, if, instead of distance, speed and vehicles, public sector investments and actions were required to look first and above all to the concept of equity.

One reason for choosing a Finnish city for this first collaborative peer investigation  is directly related to their extraordinary  accomplishments over the last years in building one of the most highly respected educational systems in the world (see the OECD PISA program results over the last decade) based specifically on the concept of equity. Our project will also examine the strategic base of their success in the education sector, to see if there are lessons which can be applied to transportation systems reform.

We are well aware that in many parts of the world the transportation arrangements are grossly unfair to the very large proportion of the population.  Some cities, some projects do better than others, but the broad central trend is there, and it is not good. The systems and services offered are often outstandingly and visibly unfair to the elderly and to the frail, to those who cannot drive and do not have access to cars, those who cannot afford to own and operate a car, including those who may work and own and use a car but who really are not sufficiently well-off to be able to afford the high costs associated with car ownership and use, those who are penalized in their daily and family lives as a result of having to travel long distances in often inconvenient or even absent public transportation, to those who would like to walk or bicycle in safety, to children in many aspects of their day to day lives, to women who by and large are not fairly treated by the existing transportation arrangements, and the long list goes on.

In a word, in most cities on this planet for the great majority of all people the present transportation arrangements are inequitable. The largely unquestioned all-car no-choice transportation paradigm of the 20th century is not doing the job for the transportation majority. The mobility services offered are unfair, inefficient and uneconomic.  So what if we were to turn the situation around and take as a starting point for public policy and investments in the sector not so much those twentieth century values of speed, distance and vehicle throughput, but 21st-century values of equity , social justice and deep democracy.

One of the key pillars behind this program is a belief that, properly engaged, the move to equity-based transportation can lead to greater efficiency and economy both for specific groups and individuals, and also for the city and its region as a whole. That it is to say, it is going to be a step up, and not a step down.  But now let’s have a look and start the discussions.

Helsinki Department of City Planning and Transportation

Kansakoulukatu 1 A FI-00099 City of Helsinki

# # #

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s