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Eeva Linkama: Courage, enchantment and enthusiasm

The current ways of thinking and action in traffic planning stem from the post-war period of reconstruction, industrialisation and motorisation. However, our global and dynamic operating environment impels us to question conventional practices, offering many new challenges and opportunities. Finland needs a strategically agile traffic system that responds to users’ rapidly changing needs while also promoting long-term strategic goals.

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The current ways of thinking and action in traffic planning stem from the post-war period of reconstruction, industrialisation and motorisation. However, our global and dynamic operating environment impels us to question conventional practices, offering many new challenges and opportunities. Finland needs a strategically agile traffic system that responds to users’ rapidly changing needs while also promoting long-term strategic goals.

In community and traffic planning, we must have the courage to reform the ways of thinking and action and to lay a foundation for a new, sustainable and more effective traffic policy. The potential for improving efficiency is immense, and the unpromising economic outlook serves as extra motivation. We must be able to achieve more with the resources we have. 

The Traffic Revolution development programme was launched a year ago under the supervision of Sitra and the Ministry of Transport and Communications. The programme aims to create new ways of thinking as well as a new operational culture for community and traffic planning – ones that facilitate a more effective traffic policy. The first phase involved creating a roadmap, a handbook on what the new of way thinking means and how it reforms current practices. 

The purpose of the Traffic Revolution is to create better and more economical services for people, businesses and industry. The Traffic Revolution also aims to improve the productivity and impact of the traffic sector. Further goals include creating new business and innovation opportunities for traffic-related companies and reducing greenhouse gas emissions from traffic. The benefits for users, taxpayers, businesses and society are evident, but how can the ambitious goals be matched to the many special interests of the different players?

The process holds special appeal and inspiration for civil servants like myself who are used to more steady and routine work. The permanent secretaries from the ministries closely related to the process were enthusiastic to participate and contribute from the get-go, even though the big picture was “a little on the abstract side” or “undefined in a fascinating manner”. What an exceptional and great attitude!

Once the ministries had given the mandate for the project, it was time to roll up our sleeves. To create the roadmap, we needed to find experts representing the key players who would have the enthusiasm, collaborative abilities, courage and understanding to create next-generation ways of thinking and action from a clean slate. We invited 25 top experts from organisations related to community and traffic planning from around the country. Almost all of the experts committed to the work right away; only two had to cancel later because of urgent assignments. The experts seemed to instantly grasp the potential of and the need for new thinking. As one of them pointed out, “Why wasn’t this done earlier?” 

The launch event in December was bubbling with enthusiasm, and this unremitting eagerness was evident in the group’s work throughout the spring. Even though the workshops were fast-paced and the big picture was at times unclear to say the least, the group was completely committed to the work, almost inexplicably so. The members’ understanding of the necessity for change deepened, and their picture of the new opportunities and potential benefits became clearer. The group’s internal chemistry and mutual trust grew stronger, making it possible to address difficult issues. The different parties’ views and goals were discussed until it was possible to reach an agreement on mutually accepted operating models. This resulted in a unanimous and brave vision of the key elements of the new thinking.  

The atmosphere in the roadmap publication event in late April was one of relief and enthusiasm. Something practically impossible had been made possible. The group should be proud of its work. We now have a roadmap for continuing the work, and everyone is committed. The purpose is to rapidly implement the new ways of thinking and action into everyday practice. The key players already have pilot projects in progress or under development to test and further develop the new ways of thinking. It is great to see that the group has the energy and enthusiasm to continue the work!

If my memory serves me correctly, never before has anything this revolutionary been achieved in the traffic sector in one year. We should remember, however, that the successful thinking process is only half the job. It may take longer to change the set thinking patterns and operating models, but the pace is not the point here – it is the direction.

Senior Adviser  Eeva Linkama works at the Traffic Policy Department of the Ministry of Transport and Communications. She chaired the first phase of the Traffic Revolution development programme with Juha Kostiainen from Sitra.

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