Mobility services in Northern Finland to improve through co-operation

Ended project: August 2018 – October 2019

We accelerated the digitisation of mobility services and co-operation between service providers in Northern Finland to make sustainable and shared mobility of local inhabitants and tourists easier.

What was it about?

In the sparsely populated areas in Northern Finland, tourist sites and attractions are located a long way from each other and cover a large area. Public transport is available mostly in wintertime and, even then, only from one key site to another.

The purpose of the project was to create a co-operation model and network for strategic mobility service across municipal borders and a digital platform (trip planner) for mobility services. This will make different areas more easily accessible and promote the use of shared mobility services instead of needing to use one’s own car.

The co-operation between tourist destinations and transport service providers plays a key role with a view to reaching the goals.

The project was a result of the funding call for projects concerning regional mobility (in Finnish) organised by Sitra during the first half of 2018. Among the programmes implemented by the funding call and the projects under it is the National Growth Programme for the Transport Sector 2018-2022 funded by Sitra. The project also continued and extended the 2015-2018 co-operation and programme launched and piloted at Ylläs (in Finnish).

What was achieved?

In the project, a co-operation network was formed to develop and pilot a Lapin reittiopas trip planner and to generate continuous maintenance of the trip planner. The network consisted of the key research institutes specialising in transport and tourism, tourist associations, towns and cities and development companies. The trip planner was piloted, but no permanent co-operation model has yet been found.

The project established a snapshot of the mobility services in Northern Finland. As the project proceeded, operators in the target area were given coaching on how to digitise mobility services, such as ski and airport buses. The digitisation also included location data for more than 300 tourist destinations, and instructions were drawn up for local mobility service operators on how to include their services in the OpenStreetMap environment (in Finnish).

On Ylläs, including mobility services within the trial version of Lapin reittiopas trip planner was continued based on earlier projects. The trip planner was also tested in such sites as Kuusamo and Syöte. In addition, real-time bus operations (in Finnish) were piloted on the trip planner and the technical readiness for using such a service proved to be good.

One of the associated goals was to develop an open source code tool (GTFS editor) that would make it easy for transport service providers to include their routes and timetables within the digital trip planner. The development work was conducted using the open source Conveyal tool and several routes were successfully digitised with the tool. However, the system is not ready for large-scale launch, and the time is not yet right for engaging transport service providers in the development work. Furthermore, there are no operating models or incentives for promoting digitisation and shared mobility services. Therefore, when organising competitive bids and making contracts, municipalities and other operators could require that transport service providers provide any free seats left to anyone needing a seat.

The focus of the work was in finding a continuous co-operation model (responsible parties and processes) for digitising transit data and maintaining the Lapin reittiopas trip planner. The project promoters proposed to a few key stakeholders that a jointly funded and open national service platform be set up, but, for the time being, no one has made a commitment to the proposal.

Who was involved?

In all, there were 11 tourist destinations from Kuusamo to Utsjoki involved in the project. Sitra provided funding to the University of Lapland (Multidimensional Tourism Institute, MTI) and Ylläs Tourist Association for building strategic co-operation between the regions of Northern Finland. At Sitra, the project manager was Heikki Sorasahi. The University of Lapland was responsible for the co-ordination of the project and mapping and compiling the network of operators. Ylläs Tourist Association held the main responsibility for supporting the regions of Northern Finland and engaging them in the development of the digitisation of mobility services.

Apinf Oy developed the open source tool (GTFS editor) for digitisation of transit data with the funding provided by Sitra.

One of the key operators in the project was the Technical Research Centre of Finland VTT Ltd, responsible for the development and launch of the open mobility service platform. Other key stakeholders and co-funding providers included the municipality of Enontekiö; the town of Kemijärvi; the Lapland Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment; the Regional Council of Lapland; the municipality of Muonio; North Ostrobothnia Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment; the town of Pudasjärvi; the Pyhä-Luosto Tourist Association; the municipality of Salla; the municipality of Sodankylä; Inari Municipal Business & Development Nordica; Naturpolis Oy; and Kideve Kittilä Development.

What next?

VTT and the University of Lapland will continue the work begun by the project with funding from Business Finland’s FIT ME! – Foreign Individual Travelers’ hospitality and Mobility Ecosystem project (September 2019 to February 2020) (in Finnish). In addition, the University of Lapland and Kideve Kittilä Development are preparing a European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) project related to the same theme that will focus on the regional special features of mobility services on a larger scale.

The smart mobility development group (in Finnish), co-ordinated by the KEINO Competence Centre for Sustainable and Innovative Public Procurement and funded by Business Finland, will bring the key transport-sector stakeholders together to examine the role of data and co-operation models with a view to promoting mobility services.

More information: (in Finnish), on Twitter @OpenArcticMaaS.


Marleena Ahonen
Project coordinator, Circular economy , Finnish Innovation Fund Sitra

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