Covers environment, transportation, urban and regional planning, economic and social issues with a focus on Finland and Portugal.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Google Transit and Google Maps integration: Cheaper, Faster and Greener

Lisbon – Helsinki trip plan with Google Maps ( for a while , car-free travel planning isn't available in Europe)

Google recently announced that Google Transit has graduated from Google Labs being fully integrated with Google Maps . This means that Google Transit allows travelers to choose public transportation instead of driving and to receive customized directions (in areas where Google has transit coverage). Thus, you have freedom of choice to check which is the cheapest, probably fastest and most environmentally friendliest trip.

Read moreYou can select the time of departure or arrival and Google Transit will plot the best course (you can choose from a few alternate routes). Considered parameters are: walking directions to and from public transportation stations, cost of the trip (compared to the cost via car) and estimated total time of travel.

For a while, the project is only available in selected cities, not in Europe. Next, we will make a plan for a trip across the Europe, Lisbon - Helsinki. The aim is to see which of the schedules of the transit agencies might be integrated to increase the Google database.

Lisbon – Helsinki trip plan

Start: Rotunda da Expo 98; Lisbon, Portugal
End: Mannerheimintie ; Helsinki, Finland
Travel: 4,069 km – about 1 day 20 hours (by car)

the following information is merely experimental , it doesn't release the consultation of the transportation services. In reality, traffic, construction works or other events may affect the results.

1. Selection of flights from the available options (booking)

Estimated time of travel – 6h25min + 1h30 (check-in, luggage, etc)

From---------To--------- Departure-------------Arrival
Lisbon------ Munich ----- 29Oct, 06h30---------29Oct, 10h35

Munich ---- Helsinki------ 29 Oct, 11h20 ------29 Oct, 14h55

2.Trip between Rotunda da Expo98 and Portela Airport (2 points placed in Lisbon city) 3.9 km
Estimated time of travel (public transport) – 88 min
Estimated time of travel (by car) – about 8 min
It's better to call a taxi...

Transporlis is a multimodal information system of the metropolitan area of Lisbon.
It is a system that integrates the main transport operators of the metropolitan area of Lisbon, and that allows to optimize the use of their transports in function of the schedules of each company. It also integrates the flight schedules of the airport of Lisbon.
Path Finder

3.Trip between Vantaa Airport and Mannerheimintie(Helsinki) 19.8 km
Estimated time of travel (public transport) – 43 min
Estimated time of travel (by car) – about 22 min

YTV door-to-door Journey Planner gives You advice on the best public transport connection to your destination within the Helsinki region.
The principal duties of the Helsinki Metropolitan Area Council (YTV) comprise transport system planning, regional public transport provision, waste management and air quality management for its four member municipalities (Helsinki, Espoo, Kauniainen and Vantaa). It also maintains regional databases and conducts studies on different issues affecting the region. Besides its member municipalities, YTV also serves a number of nearby municipalities on the basis of separate contracts.

Departure (Lisbon) - 4 h 30min
Arrival (Helsinki) - 16h 47min
d total time of travel - 10h 17m

Level of satisfaction of the residents with public transport in selected cities (2006)
Satisfaction of the residents with public transport in selected cities in 2006.
Source: Survey on perceptions of quality of life in 75 European cities. European Commission 2007. The survey was carried out in November 2006 by interviewing 500 people in each 75 cities participating in the survey. There were 23 questions on the quality of life in the respondent’s area.

In this above graph we can notice the satisfaction of the residents of selected cities with public transport in the year of 2006 ( survey on perceptions of quality of life in 75 European cities). Helsinki is placed in the first position followed by Wien, Rennes, Hamburg and Munchen. Paris is in the middle. Madrid, Barcelona and Lisbon are in the last third, while Roma and Napoli are at the bottom.

In Helsinki, the central city, the share of public transport is among the highest (in European comparison). This is a result of active policies of promoting public transport.
In relation to the national wealth (GDP per capita), monthly passes are very inexpensive in Helsinki (the price difference of single and monthly passes is significant).

In the Helsinki metropolitan area the share of the operating costs of public transport financed by ticket revenues is higher than in most cities included in international comparison and all the public funding is derived from municipalities, contrary to most of metropolitan areas in Europe (particularly in capital cities), where the central government usually takes the main responsibility of public transport.

It is not surprise that the YTV door-to-door Journey Planner service is among the most visited sites of the country, due to its simplicity and efficiency - a Helsinki “slang” site version complements the 3 languages of the site (finnish, swedish and english) and the site also includes one mobile version and journey planner for cyclists.

The Finns seem to have learned from the success of the world of IT and modern real-time logistics , keys for the design of future public transport.

How to provide transit data to Google Transit Trip Planner

We can say that the world integration of the public transit schedules (in its different transport modes) will surely be a great challenge . Once achieved, this previous example would be highly simplified, improving the schedule-based service.

So, to increase the integration it's necessary that the agencies have a public transportation data for their cities, and get it included in the Google Transit Trip Planner. The Google Transit Feed Specification describes how to provide transit data in a format that Google Transit Trip Planner can use, i.e. how a public agency that oversees public transportation can submit a feed to Google Transit Trip Planner.

Petri Jalasto, Eeva Linkama,Seppo Lampinen (YY-Optima Oy), Finnish transport system in European perspective, Ministry of Transport and Communications, 28 September 2007


Saturday, October 20, 2007

Interactive map of the species under threat in your region

Species case studies by region

99% of threatened species are at risk from human activities. Take a closer look at the species under threat in your region. Interactive map (and species fact sheets)

The World Conservation Union IUCN published on September 12th a new red list of threatened species in Washington and Paris.
2007 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species
Extinction crisis escalates: Red List shows apes, corals, vultures, dolphins all in danger - 12 September 2007
"Life on Earth is disappearing fast and will continue to do so unless urgent action is taken. There are now 41,415 species on the IUCN Red List and 16,306 of them are threatened with extinction, up from 16,118 last year. The total number of extinct species has reached 785 and a further 65 are only found in captivity or in cultivation."
Full release


Friday, October 19, 2007

Facebook: hundreds of new Finnish users every hour

Some weeks ago "the main auditorium at the Old Student Building in downtown Helsinki was packed with people. TV-cameras rolled and the sponsors' neckties gleamed as media guru Sam Inkinen delivered a presentation.
As it happens , the content of the event did not quite match up to the surroundings and the glitz: the National Union of University Students and the Student Union of the University of Helsinki were launching their new Virtual Campus Lyyra, a nationwide Internet networking service, where students can keep blogs and photo albums and send messages to their friends and colleagues.
Nothing so terribly revolutionary in all this, then. However, the stunt - arranged by the Helsinki advertising agency BOB - filled the hall because the invitations contained the magic words: "Lyyra to challenge Facebook"

Back in the spring of this year, Facebook was for Finns still just one social networking site among many. Yes, it had users, but it was hardly the sort of mega-phenomenon that the video-sharing YouTube operation represented.
However... during the summer the service achieved critical mass, after which user numbers increased rapidly.
Now they have gone ballistic: on Tuesday afternoon [October 2nd], nearly 500 Finns joined the Facebook community in the space of around an hour and a half.
It is hard to list the number of users in a newspaper article, because the figures are out of date before the paper heads off to the printers. On Sunday evening just over a week ago, the total was 57,000 users - by Tuesday evening it was 63,500. Today [October 9th, 15:00] it is hovering just under 88,000. (...)
It is difficult to explain quite why the Finns found Facebook right now, and not earlier. In Norway, for instance, the big boom in new members took place back in the spring, and there are now nearly 370,000 Norwegian Facebook users, and more than 400,000 in Sweden."
full article
NEWS ANALYSIS: Facebook draws in hundreds of new Finnish users every hour, By Olavi Koistinen - Helsingin Sanomat

"University students have opened their own nationwide Internet service, Lyyra, which is a Finnish counterpart to social media such as Facebook, LinkedIn and MySpace.

“In one fell swoop, we’re making Finnish students some of the most progressive in the world. Whereas Facebook is merely a way of having fun on the Internet, Lyyra will have a positive impact on students’ real lives,” says Lasse Männistö, Chairman of the National Union of University Students in Finland. is a virtual meeting place for 300,000 students. It will open up a new channel for the activity that characterizes the student lifestyle – pranks and protests will now be organized on the Internet. Lyyra is also the world’s most advanced student card – it’s the first large-scale application based on Sony FeliCa technology in Europe.

Lyyra’s mission is to offer benefits and services that will both enhance and ease students’ lives, while also providing a social network. Lyyra aims to spark off debate and remind people that alongside the rapid accumulation of study credits, students should be gaining a world of educational and entertaining experiences – and, of course, new friends."
full article
Virtual Campus Lyyra to Challenge Facebook
VIRTUAL STUDENT CAMPUS LYYRA TO CHALLENGE FACEBOOK - Finnish students to rank among the most progressive in the world


The evolution of the science and the technology has reached many extraordinary inventions that nobody dreamed of before. The greatest wonder is the crossing between the man and the machine, cyborg. On one side, hopes were placed on the healthier and more diversified human body. Another side it has been considered to threat the humanity and human values. The guide of the cyborg balances between these contradictory ethical visions.
Tekninen teos kyborgeista


Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Fast Transport on Request: new alternative intercity transport

The contemporary city is a multidimensional reality. More than half of the world's people will soon live in highly urbanized centres, in conurbations or in metropolitan areas - continuous networks of urban communities. The massive use of private cars causes serious problems in these urban networks, when industrial areas and vital urban facilities are blocked by traffic congestions and parking problems. Despite this situation, for many the private car remains favourable, but it is obvious that an effective alternative in the form of public transportation is strongly needed.
Read more
In that context a new type of public transportation is sketched, which is focussed on intercity travelling - the travelling between urban centres situated at mutual distances from 10 to 50 Km, covering an area with a length up to 200 Km. This transportation concept (Fast Transport on Request) is based on three key ideas: the success of the private car, the new world of Internet and communication and modern real-time logistics. [1]

Two rapidly evolving areas of advanced transportation and energy technology are hydrogen energy systems and intelligent transportation systems (ITS). Projects involving the use of ITS and hydrogen-powered vehicles include a superbus project where a hydrogen-powered transit bus is also equipped with the latest ITS telematics technology to optimize its operation and potentially to help attract ridership, potentially in conjunction with “hot lanes” for transit vehicles at peak times. [2]

1.Indications for the design of
future public intercity transport [1]

Learning from the success of the private car, the world of IC and the success of modern real-time logistics - the resulting indications for the design of future public intercity transport.

1.1 Private car

Chevrolet Volt/ by LBST

Reliable, unconditional access to fast mobility

• High driving frequencies, or quick service on req

• Stops on short distances from desired departure and arrival po

• For individual traveller, no detours and no intermediate stops

• Travel times all-in shorter than private car, parking included

• Certainty about back travel

Comfort, privacy and control over travel enviro

• Comfortable, automatically adjusting chairs

• Environment for digital information providing and amus

• Direct connections without change over

Suitable for family or group travelling

• Option to book several neighbouring seats in the same vehicle

• Facilities for travelling kids

General Concepts (Automobility)

Automobility and personal autonomy are complementary and arise from, and give expression to the fundamental human quality of self-determination.” (philosopher Lomasky, 1995)

“Waiting in traffic congestions is a waste of time, but also a frustration of freedom
“For many people, car driving gives a feeling of freedom, power and social participation.” (sociologist Sheller, 2004)

Experience of privacy

Hidden conflict between authority and personal au

In this way, automobility is experienced as a continuing reject
ion of governmental policy to discourage car driving and to promote public transportation.

Transport “new style” scores on aspects such as avail
ability, speed, comfort, and social integration.

Changing over must be avoided

1.2 IC world
Superbus/TU Delft

Integrated in communicative life style

• Booking via Internet and intelligent mobile telepho

• Identification and financial settlements via personal sm
art carts

• Compatible with active metropolitan life style

Response on demand

• Anticipating deployment of vehicles, using dynamical s

• Anticipating response on public happenings

Co-ordinated autonomy of actors

• Autonomously operating vehicles, prevents system failures

• Overall co-ordination promoting quality of service and efficiency

General Concepts (Virtual mobility and autonomy)

With the modern mobile telephone people can communicate instantaneously from any place to any place at any time, without meeting each other.

Communicative life style

The rise of Internet has led the world of Cyberspac

“Cyberspace accommodates many forms of service providing, taking advantage of the unlimited access to information and of the possibilities of taking virtual decisions and to settle financial commitments. There is no need to work within an organisation to get access to these facilities.(…)
Markets are agile and enterprises must react fast. New organisations operate with autonomous business units, co-ordinating the work with the help of digital performance contracts.”

Railways still follow the traditional model:
Trains are rigid
Trains cannot leave the rails
Trains cannot pass each other
The following times between trains are at least three minute.
Trains must operate in fixed schedules

Operational control is focused on maintaining the schedules.
Organisational form is hierarchical.

Local perturbations can propagate fast (which may lead to stagnation of the whole system)

Bus transport operates differently:
Each bus functions autonomously and is committed to the running operation plan via a performance contract.
Malfunction of a single bus will not lead to failure of the system

“The current ICT offers special means to implement an intelligent customer interface with a booking system, a virtual ticket market and with an interactive travelling supporting system.”

1.3 Modern logistics
Ford Airstream/ by LBST

Service dynamics: service on four types of stations

• Intercity stations with parking and change over facilities

• Stationary local stop places

• Demand related varying local stop places

Demand intensities and selection of assortment

• Service related to ABC-classification and minimal requirements on service providing

• Balance between differentiation of service and demand intensities


• Combination of collect-sprint-disperse and line-hub-spoke

Production on stock or on demand

• Serve minimal required service level with fixed schedule

• Serve A-segment largely on the basis of demand forecasts

• Serve other demand on request

Logistic control

• Capacity planning, using aggregated demand f

• Real-time operations planning on combined deployment of vehicles and allocation of seats

General Concepts ( The logistical viewpoint)

Virtual ticket market

In logistics ABC-classification, the assortment is subdivided in highly, moderately and rarely demanded products (often the so-called 80/20-rule applies):
A-segment - 80% of the demand concerns only 20% of the assortment.
B-segment - represents 15% of the demand on (say) 30% of the assortment.
C-segment - the remaining part.
Often the C-segment is loss making, but can’t be missed because of complementary with other segments.
In the transportation market:
A-segment - typically consists of trips during rush hours.
B-segment - covers daily trips on popular traj
C-segment - typically lies on nightly trips.

“Production may be induced by keeping stocks. Stocks may cause stock risks, implying that possibly they can’t be sold. For products of the “A-segment”, such risks can be small and therefore acceptable. Since the seventies production on stock is largely replaced by production on demand.”

From the viewpoints of quality of service providing and efficiency, the appropriate form is production on demand.

Using modern ICT, the demand could be entered via Internet or telephone.

Public transport operating with fixed schedules is a form of “production on stock”. These stocks consist of seats in the acting vehicles. Unsold stocks are visible as empty seats.

Dial-a-ride public transport “produces on demand”

“The logistical viewpoint gives indications how to arrange the locations and selection of stops, how to serve strongly varying demands, which transportation concept is to be preferred and how to control the operations.”

Transportation concepts
Line-hub-spoke concept:
Intercity personal transport mainly goes by train, where the stations are passed in line. On each station travellers may use the local transport system to start or to complete their travel.
Busses offer other possibilities. A trip along the in
tercity tracks both may start and end with a local trip, serving a rather small number of popular stopping places.

“The leading idea is to avoid transfer between local transport and intercity transport, and with this shorten travel times. Line-hub-spoke and collect-sprint-disperse might be combined in the sense that a part of the travellers may avoid local related transfers indeed, whereas others use separate local transport.”

2.Characteristics of Fast Transport on Request (FTR) [1]
Van Hool Prototype Bus/ ISEcorp

“Characteristic is the application of advanced technology in vehicles, traffic control and communication. Remarkable is the rigorous integration of the words of public transport, cyberspace and system intelligence, aimed to offer a quality which can compete with the use of the private car.”

For the transport between the cities, there are dedicated and protected tracks (sprint tracks) for fast driving cars, which are connected with (dedicated) local road networks.

General Concepts

Busses can be constructed safely driving 180 km/h (with proven technology)

Sprint tracks are reserved for qualified vehicles.

Driving at normal speeds, such vehicles also can be used on public roads.

To be allowed to drive on a sprint track, a car must be equipped with:
- a system for lateral stabilisation
- a system to follow a virtual roadmap
- an intelligent cruise controller (however the driver will stay fully responsible)

Trips have to be booked via Internet or telephone, which can be done “on-timing”, “on last-minute”, or as “option”. The booking system is connected with a virtual ticket market. One may book bundles of trips and “connected tickets”.

“Travelling can be shortened by reducing the number of intermediate stops and by avoiding making detours. To issue such special trips, the planning system needs information on the demand. This information can be deduced from real-time forecasts, but above all from requests to be served, entering via Internet and telephone. Clearly a booking system is a natural apparatus to improve the service level and therefore has to be the core of and intelligent customer interface.”

An operations control system clusters the travel requests, deploys the vehicles and allocates the seats, such that travellers never will make a detour and such that intermediate stops are avoided.

The vehicles are equipped with digital facilities and comfortable seats, which adapt themselves automatically to the profile of the traveller.

General Concepts

Each seat is equipped with digital facilities for communication, radio and television.

3.Combination of BRT and DR systems [1]

It is natural to combine the systems of BRT and DR and add a few elements related to the structuring of the routes, the intercity travelling speed, the availability via an intelligent customer interface and the personalised service.

Bus Rapid Transit (BRT)
Public transport with busses, driving on dedicated lanes, with separate halting lanes and with right of way on crossings
Demand Responsive Transport (DRT)
Demand Responsive Transport (DRT) mainly concerns transport with minibuses to serve scattered demands in rural environments. The routes and the deployment of vehicles are planned in response on requests entered by telephone.

“For a new concept such as FTR extensive R&D is needed to elaborate and to verify the technology, the logistic control system, the safety aspects and the societal acceptance. People are not used to book their daily travelling, but the unique buying reasons are that travelling with FTR is cheap, fast and “tailor made”.”

[1] Joseph J.M. Evers , Discussion note by Prof. Joop Evers: Profile of new intercity transport, Transport Policy and Logistics Organization / Technology, Policy and Management / Delft University of Technology; EJTIR- European Journal of Transport and Infrastructure, Volume 7, Issue 3 (September, 2007), pp. 257-266



Monday, October 15, 2007


Os últimos eventos políticos vêm confirmar que o processo de regionalização português não deve estar excessivamente dependente do sistema político-partidário, sob o risco de ser eternamente adiado - é necessária uma transformação interna dos partidos políticos, adaptando-os às novas realidades sociais e económicas (e ambientais), hoje bastante diferentes daquelas que condicionaram o referendo de 8 de Novembro de 1998.

Tem-se agravado o afastamento entre as elites políticas e as expectativas e necessidades da população, que não se sente necessariamente ouvida e representada nos partidos políticos (creio que a militância partidária em Portugal é inferior a 4%). Esta apatia deveria ser ultrapassada pela criação dum sistema democrático de entidades territoriais, mobilizador, descentralizado e coerente (regiões, municípios e freguesias), que distribuísse equilibradamente as decisões que pudessem ser tomadas a outros níveis diferentes da Administração central.

O problema duma divisão distrital não correspondente com a divisão territorial administrativa, tem sido sustentado pelo sistema político-partidário, pois, como se sabe, os círculos eleitorais são de base distrital. Não se elege deputados (representantes legitimados pelo voto das populações). Vota-se em partidos políticos, que escolhem deputados, em sistema de candidaturas em lista fechada, candidaturas estas, sobretudo decididas pelas hierarquias partidárias que impõem a disciplina partidária, transformando as decisões políticas, não no resultado duma representação territorial, mas no produto centralizado duma elite política.

O processo de descentralização da administração central do Estado está a ser condicionado pela ausência de regiões administrativas. A reforma progride a velocidade inferior ao desejável, tal como a economia nacional, num Estado de tradição centralizadora, num sistema político -partidário também bastante centralizador e num ambiente de desconfiança da administração central em relação ao poder local.


Thursday, October 11, 2007

City of the future is for people, not cars

Possible future view of Jätkäsaari from the south. Through the middle runs West Harbour Park, the heart of the new district /City of Helsinki/City Planning Dep.

Länsisatama - West Harbour: downtown by the sea [Helsinki-Finland]
"The Länsisatama (West Harbour) redevelopment project of the Helsinki City Planning Department is comprised of more than 200 hectares of land on the southwest waterfront of the city.
The areas covered by the Länsisatama project include the residential and office area of Ruoholahti, built in the 1990s; Jätkäsaari, currently used for cargo and passenger traffic; and Munkkisaari, currently in use as a dockyard, part of which will be freed for other uses in the year 2012.

The Jätkäsaari area is currently being planned. A local plan for a comprehensive solution to the area is in preparation and will soon be completed. Jätkäsaari will house 15,000 residents and provide 6,000 jobs. The area will
be freed for construction when the cargo port is transferred to Vuosaari in 2008.
Within the next couple of decades, the Länsisatama or West Harbour area will have been transformed into a waterfront city quarter with an estimated population of 22,000, which will enhance the appeal of central Helsinki and its services as a whole." [1]

An entire new district flanking the city centre
"By the end of 2008, the goods harbour which for decades has occupied a spit of land west of the centre of Helsinki will be moved to Vuosaari at the eastern extremity of the city. In its place, an entire new city district named Jätkäsaari will emerge. (…) The construction of a big new urban district from scratch is rare by any standard; hence the enormous interest that the project has aroused. Jätkäsaari raises the question: What is the city of the future, and what will the good life there be like?

Jätkäsaari is no longer the island that it used to be but a headland linked to the mainland and less than 1.5 km from the heart of Helsinki. Jätkäsaari was one of three natural islands which a century ago were popular for outings and summer villas. The islands were eventually incorporated through land reclamation in the present headland when the harbour was built. Now that the harbour is to be relocated, the headland will be further filled in and reshaped, expanding it from the present 86 hectares to 100 hectares. When the containers depart, the soil will be decontaminated, and state-of-the-art infrastructure will be installed. Actual construction will begin in 2008, and the whole district is scheduled for completion in 2023." [2]

The planning goals for Jätkäsaari

Actual view of Jätkäsaari from the north / City of Helsinki/City Planning Dep.

- Produce whole new attractive and ecologically sustainable city district, not just a sleepy suburb

- Meet the everyday needs of residents and wo

- Social well-being

Differing socio-economic groups live close to one another all over the city (Town planning aims to encourage this assimilation).

Construction of the new district is expected to help meet the need for all types of housing, thus easing the housing situation throughout Helsinki:
About one third of all the housing will be social housing i.e. moderately priced rental flats owned by the City and other non-profit landlords;
Another third will be price-regulated free-market housing and right-of-occupancy housing;
The remaining third will be privately funded housing.

- To take advantage of special features of the area (district is almost entirely surrounded by the sea and shipping)

The passenger harbour on the east side of the area will remain in its present position, catering for some 3 million passengers per year travelling from Helsinki to Tallinn and St Petersburg and vice versa.

The buildings have been designed so that the
streets and do not turn into wind tunnels.

No residential buildings will be placed in the immediate vicinity of the passenger harbour, because of the noise, bustle and pollution caused by shipping.

A beach will be created on a sheltered cove in the area.

- Mobility management - New Mobility Culture: non-dependence of private cars in daily traffic

Available good alternative modes of transport : trams, service bus lines, car share vehicles, taxis, bikes.

Cycle paths to serve those living and working in every part of the district.

High quality pedestrian environment.

Up to three tram lines.

Helsinki Metro already runs close to the northern edge of the area.

Very few streets allowing vehicular access.

Every residential street will be a cul-de-sac.

Minimizing motorized traffic will also apply to waste management (garbage removal underground): sorted household waste will go straight into a pneumatic conveyance system leading to a central underground collection point.

Car-free lifestyle: return to the traditional practice of having ground-floor shops in a continuous line along the streets.

Municipal services be located within walking distance of users' homes.

"We are putting up a whole new city district, not just a suburb. Our starting points are that life there must be ecologically sound and pleasant, and it must meet the everyday needs of residents and those who work there. Social well-being, mobility management and the special features of the area are also important factors," says Project Leader Matti Kaijansinkko, the architect in charge of planning Jätkäsaari. [2]

"We are realistic enough to know that many Jätkäsaari residents will want their own wheels, but our idea is that local services and routes will be planned so that a car will not be needed for local access. Multi-storey car parks are planned for residents to keep parked cars from clogging up the streets," says Kaijansinkko. [2]


A detail of Jätkäsaari in the future / City of Helsinki/City Planning Dep.

The Jätkäsaari skyline will be essentially similar to that of Helsinki city centre, comprising buildings five to seven storeys high
. However, the plans include a few landmark-type buildings very much taller than that.(…)

Another feature that Kaijansinkko is proud of is the green belt winding through the area, reminiscent of Manhattan's Central Park. The green belt is expected to achieve great popularity and importance for the life of the whole district.
"The park has been designed to accommodate as many popular Finnish outdoor pursuits as possible: it will be possible to ski and skate there, to cycle, to play games and to enjoy a picnic. There will also be a sledging hill for children." [2]

Urban Development

"Compared to most other European countries, Finland is still heavily agrarian; around 60% of the population and 70% of jobs are in cities in 2002.27 Late urbanisation has meant that Finnish cities have been spared many of the types of problems that other European cities face. Because of this urban housing challenges in Finland are also relatively new.

Urban areas account for about four-fifths of the GDP in Finland, and the competitiveness and expertise characteristic of urban areas is considered the backbone of the entire economy. The Helsinki Metropolitan region is of great importance here. Rapid development in recent years have spurred on the one hand the movement of people into growth centres and increased the demand for housing.

Outside growth centres, part of the housing stock is vacant as the population is declining. This dynamic creates problems both in regions where people are moving from and the regions where they are moving to. A current issue is how to maintain a unified community structure, especially in cities such as Helsinki where high house prices make it difficult to attract people working in the service sectors. An ageing population also presents challenges concerning the accessibility of buildings and the provision of services that enable people to live independently for as long as possible.

Urban investment needs can be recorded in the following areas:

Regenerating urban harbour areas in Helsinki; plans for old harbour areas including residential development during the next ten years are a priority. Site preparation including the cleaning the contaminated land is expensive, around Euros 1.5 billion, and funding for especially the housing development is yet to be decided upon

Transport; transport infrastructure in the metropolitan region needs around
Euros 1.7 billion public investment over the next 10 years, to be provided by both municipalities and the central government

Housing development; the development of the harbour of Vuosaari in Helsinki, will also include housing development for between 40,000 and 50,000 people. A possible extension of the Eastern link of the metro to serve this new residential area is being discussed

Housing repairs; the housing stock built in the 1960s and 1970s is showing signs of age and is now in need of basic repairs which will cost billions. (...)

The combined levels of investment required for urban development in Helsinki alone in the coming years is estimated to total about Euros 3.5 – 4.5 billion per year. This compares to a total investment by all Finnish municipalities of Euros 3.29 billion in 2004.33 " [3]

"The housing authorities are particularly concerned about families in which the parents have low-paid jobs in middle-class professions such as teaching, the police and nursing. Their incomes are too high for them to qualify for subsidized rented housing and too low for them to afford family-size accommodation on the free market. (…)" [2]

Jätkäsaari in figures
Size 100 ha Parks 19.8 ha (13 m2 per capita) Residents 14,500 Jobs 6,000 Housing 600,000 m2 gross floor area Jobs and services 364,000 m2 gross floor area Parking spaces 1 space per 150 m2 gross floor area City investment EUR 217 million Construction starts 2008 Completion date 2023


[1] City of Helsinki/City Planning Department, Länsisatama - West Harbour: downtown by the sea,, , 04.07.2006

[2] Salla Korpela, Jätkäsaari – city life for the new millennium?,, Ulkoasiainministeriö, September 2007

[3] Expert Working Group on EIB Loan Finance for Building Sustainable Cities and Communities, Financing Investment in Sustainable Cities and Communities in Europe – the Role of the European Investment Bank, Department for Communities and Local Government: London, August 2007, pg. 60-61

City of Helsinki/City Planning Dep.
1. Possible future view of Jätkäsaari from the south. Through the middle runs West Harbour Park, the heart of the new district.
2. Actual view of Jätkäsaari from the north.
3. A detail of Jätkäsaari in the future.

Video / 3D animation:
Jätkäsaaren ylilento - WMV


Saturday, October 6, 2007

Ranking of the best (and worst) countries to live: Finland is the world's greenest

Reader's Digest researched the world's greenest countries and the worst places to live. The study released on Friday and conducted by the U.S. environmental economist Matthew Kahn, says that Finland (Suomi) is the best country for living, followed by Iceland, Norway, Sweden and Austria. The study looked at factors such as quality of drinking water, greenhouse gas emissions, education and income.

Living Green Ranking the best (and worst) countries
Five Key Environmental Lessons
You Can Always Get Greener
Even the cleanest countries have serious environmental problems. Top-ranked Finland wins high marks for air and water quality, a low incidence of infant disease, and how well it protects citizens from water pollution and natural disasters. But the country also produces an above-average amount of greenhouse gases, has a large ecological footprint (the mass of land and water needed to sustain the national level of consumption) and contributes significantly to regional environmental woes.
The reason: Finland has the highest industrial-energy consumption rate of all five Nordic countries, due largely to its reliance on the fuel-intensive forestry and quarry industries. Colder winters and lower rainfall in recent years have also had an impact, forcing cuts in the production of hydroelectricity and boosting—by 15 percent since 2005—the national appetite for fossil fuels, a major source of greenhouse gases.
A Move to Improve
To get greener, countries must do more to capitalize on national strengths. Finland, among the world's largest exporters of wind-power technology, produces less than 1 percent of its own electricity via wind power, despite average coastal wind speeds of 15 mph, 50 percent stronger than those in Chicago.
Don't Stop Thinking About Tomorrow

Manage Progress for the Benefit of All
Top 5
1. Finland
2. Iceland
3. Norway
4. Sweden
5. Austria

5 Best
1. Stockholm
2. Oslo
3. Munich
4. Paris
5. Frankfurt

Ranking the best (and worst) countries

Living Green: Full Country and City Rankings
USA was 23rd on the list of 141 countries, Britain 25th and China 84th. Nations at the bottom of the ranking were all African. Portugal was 18th on the list.
Stockholm was considered as the best city to live, followed by Oslo, Munich and Paris. New York was 15th and London 27th. The dirtiest cities were in Asia, with Beijing at the bottom because of its air pollution.
The study analyzed data from two top sources covering 141 nations to rank the world's greenest, most livable places. View the complete city and country rankings:
Countries Overall
Cities Overall


Friday, October 5, 2007

Trend of regionalism in Europe (country by country analysis)

Here you can read an excerpt of the interesting report, Regionalisation in Europe (II. European regionalism, an overview), a working document of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, that describes the trend of regionalism in Europe in recent years and gives an overview of the situation in the regionalised countries of Europe.

Read More II. European regionalism, an overview

"7. This section of the report gives a brief overview of the state of regionalisation in Europe. It is,however, confined to a very general description of the concrete situation in each state under consideration, the aim being to show the great importance of regions and the gradual tendency for Council of Europe member states to adopt a regional organisation.

8. Certain considerations must nonetheless be borne in mind. Firstly, owing to their very nature the small states (Andorra, Liechtenstein, Malta, Monaco, San Marino, etc.) are not divided into regions, which is moreover neither possible nor, no doubt, desirable. In addition, the diversity of regions must not be overlooked and therefore there must be no confusing their various facets (geographical, political, legal, identity-linked, administrative). Quite the opposite, these differences must be taken into account.

9. At the same time, the policy governing distribution of the European Union's structural funds and projects has obliged some states to set up new regions, which are sometimes quite simply invented, in order to adapt their administrative organisation to EU rules. Many of these "regions" serve no other objective and are consequently not autonomous regions, such as those discussed in this report.

10. Albania, Andorra, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Croatia, Estonia, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, Montenegro, Norway, Romania, San Marino, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Turkey have no politically autonomous regions, although some of them do have administrative sub-divisions of the state or subdivisions which exist for statistical, planning or, in EU member states, structural fund allocation purposes. It is nonetheless interesting to note that in some of these countries a regionalisation process is now under way.

11. Conversely, it can be seen that autonomous regions are very widespread in the larger European countries. Over twenty states have had to adopt some form of regional self-government, whether specific to a given geographical area or generally applicable, as in federal states.

12. These countries' regions are extremely varied, with very diverse degrees of autonomy and very different legal and political characteristics. Although one cannot generalise, these states may have used different kinds of autonomous status to settle historical territorial claims to power or problems of cultural and political identity.

13. Regionalisation has a firm foothold in the following states:

i. Austria
14. Austria is a federal state with nine "Länder" or autonomous regions. Each Land has an executive, which exercises all powers not expressly conferred on the federal government, and a parliament, which elects the executive and is authorised to legislate in all matters not constitutionally the preserve of the state.

ii. Belgium
15. Belgium is a federal state divided, from a territorial standpoint, into three regions: Brussels, Flanders and the Walloon region. These autonomous entities have their own legislature - a parliament made up of regional elected representatives. They are vested with many powers in economic, development, environment and energy matters and in European and international relations. However, it is the Flemish, French and German-speaking communities which are competent for culture, language and education, with an organisation and powers similar to those of the regions.

iii. Bosnia and Herzegovina
16. The Dayton Peace Agreement of 1995 established a fairly complex federation on account of the ethnic disputes and the outcome of the Balkans war. There are two entities: the Bosnian-Croat Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Republika Srpska. The two communities making up the first entity do not have a "regional" structure within it. They have many powers and responsibilities and exercise authority over local government, but on a power-sharing basis. In the Republika Srpska the whole situation is much clearer.
The entity is almost fully autonomous, with only slight dependence on the state. The division into two entities reflects, but does not completely mirror, the presence of three ethnic groups.

iv. Cyprus
17. Cyprus is partitioned between two communities (Greek and Turkish). The United Nations proposes a federation as a solution to the dispute. In any case, the division into two ethnic and cultural entities is clear.

v. Czech Republic
18. Traditionally, the Czech Republic has three historical regions - Bohemia, Moravia and Silesia, but in 2002 a decentralisation process resulted in the creation of fourteen regions (Kraje) with a regional assembly elected by universal suffrage and a significant degree of autonomy. These regions enjoy some legislative powers. For the purposes of allocation of the EU funds, the country has been split into seven regions and the district of Prague.

vi. Denmark
19. Denmark has set up five new regions with effect from 2007, but they are not politically autonomous. However, the country has two territories of considerable political and geographical importance - Greenland, part of the American continent, and the Faroe Islands. Both enjoy home rule and have a legislature and very broad powers, mostly coordinated and negotiated with the High Commissioner representing the Danish government.

vii. Finland
20. There is no genuine regional tier of government in Finland, although there are nineteen subdivisions, termed regions, which are little more than federations or groupings of municipalities. For the purpose of the EU funds, four regional groupings have been set up. The Åland Islands nonetheless have autonomous status, with a parliament, enjoying wide legislative powers, and an autonomous government, which decides policy in a very large number of areas. The region of Kainuu also has own powers in the field of service provision.

21.Recent reforms of France's traditional unitary system of government have led to the emergence of various forms of regionalisation. Mention can first be made of the autonomous status of the four overseas territories. France has also given Corsica special autonomous status and has implemented a general regionalisation process, leading to the creation of 25 regions without real autonomy or legislative powers.
Attention should also be drawn to the significant role played by the "départements" with their elected "conseils généraux".

ix. Georgia
22.There is a regional level of government, comprising 12 entities with unclear status, not all of which enjoy the same degree of autonomy. The two autonomous republics of Abkhazia and Adjaria and the capital city, Tbilisi, differ from the rest. The Georgian government is also in dispute with the republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which are pursuing separatist agendas and have so far rejected the possibility of a federation.

x. Germany
23. Germany is a federal state consisting of 16 "Länder" or autonomous states. Each has a legislative assembly empowered to elect an executive, with a large number of responsibilities. They enjoy huge financial autonomy and are represented by a federal organ, the Bundesrat.

xi. Hungary
24. Hungary is administratively subdivided into 19 counties (megye) deriving a degree of importance from the country's history and identity. They have some say in regional policy-making. Hungary has also set up seven statistical or spatial planning regions, which cover several counties and deal with regional development. However, they have no political autonomy.

xii. Italy
25. Italy currently has a constitutionally guaranteed decentralised system of government with 20 regions: five enjoying special status and fifteen ordinary regions. The country also has two autonomous provinces, which are largely self-governing. The regions have been vested with legislative powers. In 2001 a constitutional reform expanded the regions' autonomy, which is now very broad, and strengthened federal mechanisms.

xiii. Moldova
26. Moldova combines three kinds of regional subdivision in a state which is defined as administratively decentralised and includes an autonomous territorial unit, Gagauzia. A reform fraught with difficulties led to the replacement of the ten regions (judets) by 32 districts (rayony), whose autonomy has in fact been reduced. Gagauzia has its own executive and legislature enjoying broad powers.

27. The twelve provinces correspond to a weak form of regionalisation, without legislative powers but with some own competences. One province, Friesland, has a somewhat distinct identity, which distinguishes it from the others.

xv. Poland
28. Following the transition to democracy a significant legislative reform modified the administrative division of the state, reducing the number of regions (voivodeships) from 49 to 16. However, these are not politically autonomous regions. Most have administrative powers, and some a degree of legislative power.
They are responsible in particular for regional and cultural development.

xvi. Portugal
29. Portugal has a unitary system of government with unequal regionalisation. There are two autonomous regions with legislative powers and a special status - the Azores and Madeira. A regionalisation reform was rejected in 1998 but new proposals for sub-dividing the country into regions are currently again being examined. Mainland Portugal has five spatial planning regions.

xvii. Russian Federation
30. The federal constitution establishes different levels of sub-state authorities, such as the 21 republics, which have their own constitutions, the six territories (kraja), the 49 regions (oblasti), one autonomous region, ten autonomous districts and two federal cities (Moscow and St Petersburg). The result is very unequal regionalisation, since the republics have certain special rights and a number of the federal subjects have signed bilateral treaties with the federation, considerably enhancing differences in autonomy.

xviii Serbia
31. This republic is currently a state composed of two autonomous provinces: Vojvodina and Kosovoand Metohija. The former has many national minorities (26) although the majority of the population is Serb. Kosovo has a huge Albanian majority and became a de facto international protectorate at the end of the war.
The international community is now debating the future status of this region, which many wish to see become an independent state, as was recently the case with Montenegro.

xix. Slovakia
32. The country has 12 (8) higher territorial subdivisions solely for the purpose of EU regional policy. There is an ongoing debate on this territorial organisation.

xx. Slovenia
33. Slovenia has passed legislation setting up regions, but they have not yet officially been constituted.

xxi. Spain
34. The Spanish Constitution of 1978 set up 17 autonomous regions. In general, the specificities of the various historical and political identities were respected. The Autonomous Communities have vast powers, excluding strictly federal powers retained by the state. They all have an executive and a parliament with broad legislative powers. However, they are not all equally autonomous; Catalonia, the Basque Country, Galicia and Andalusia have a status different from that of the other regions, and also from one another. The statutes of autonomy of the Canary and Balearic Island communities also differ. Similarly, the cities of Ceuta and Melilla under Spanish sovereignty in North Africa have their own autonomous status.

xxii. Sweden
35. Sweden has a decentralised tier of government in the form of 18 counties, which are more of the nature of local government authorities having some powers but not of a legislative nature.

xxiii. Switzerland
36. Switzerland is a federal state made up of cantons and half-cantons, which all have specific sovereign status (their own executive, legislature and judiciary). It constitutes a special case of virtually total regional autonomy vested in the 26 cantons, to the point where they can even conclude international treaties.
Switzerland's system of referendums also guarantees self-determination at cantonal level.

xxiv Turkey
37. There is no regionalisation process. The country has seven geographical regions for purely statistical purposes. Despite exerting pressure, the Kurd community has not been granted autonomous status, apart from certain linguistic and cultural rights.

xxv. Ukraine
38. The country is subdivided into 24 regions (oblasts), which are purely administrative in nature and have no powers of self-management, plus the Autonomous Republic of Crimea. The latter has its own constitution and an independent legislature and executive, which are nonetheless subject to the laws of Ukraine and the authority of the President and the Constitutional Court of Ukraine. It is nonetheless vested with huge powers within its territory.

xxvi. United Kingdom
39. The United Kingdom has a unitary system of government. It recently went through a devolution process, conferring considerable autonomy on the historical nations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Scotland and Northern Ireland have legislative powers. Wales has a strong executive, but no legislative powers. Furthermore, a regional reform of the fourth nation, England, is under way.

40. To sum up, excluding the small states where the creation of regions is pointless, it can be seen that, in the majority of Council of Europe member states, regionalisation is either already firmly established or under way. Most of the larger countries of Europe have a well-developed sub-state level of government formed of regions enjoying considerable autonomy and legislative powers.

41. It is true that some countries have adopted semi-regionalisation solutions, that is to say a sub-state level of government above the strictly local tier but without the legal or political strength conferred by regional autonomy. In many of these countries there is an ongoing debate on organisation of this level of government taking account of criteria of subsidiarity and proximity.

42. Mention should also be made of the fact that a number of member states are confronted with linguistic, cultural and identity-related claims by ethnic groups, historical communities or national minorities, who are seeking to assert their right to a say in cultural and political matters. The best solution, at least in a number of cases, is probably a form of regional autonomy (where functionally feasible).

43. At the same time, it is unrealistic to assume that these identity-based demands will diminish or die out. On the contrary, globalisation has caused people to seek a form of return to their roots and fostered a sense of belonging to a small home community, the closest local or regional group. In response to this trend to take refuge in the nearest, most local community, in one's mother tongue and traditional culture, there is a need for recognition of these cultural and political realities via a solution that is satisfactory for all concerned, which could in most cases be of a federal or regional nature.(...)"

Full Report

Committee on the Environment, Agriculture and Local and Regional, Parliamentary Assembly, Council of Europe; Rapporteur: Mr Lluís Maria de PUIG, Report - Regionalisation in Europe, Doc.11373, 14 September 2007, pg. 6-10