Guest blogger Kitty works on the Star Tribune copy desk. She and her family just got back from a vacation in Finland, to visit friends and celebrate Midsummer. Though she is generally both bored and ignorant when it comes to transportation issues, she was struck, even impressed, by several transportation wonders.
Can these be imported?
1. Before you get on a tram, bus, train, ferry or the metro in Helsinki, you can buy your ticket using your cell phone. I saw my friend do it. You punch in a number, and the fare is added to your phone bill. And an adult with a kid in a stroller gets on free. Check it out here.
2. Intercity trains have a special kids’ car, with toys and books and a slide. Better, as you watch your kid play, you can drink a fabulous cup of coffee or cold can of beer from the traveling refreshment cart.
On the other hand, if you don’t enjoy children, you can pick a different car. The nearest thing I’ve seen on a train here is the Lounge Car on the Amtrak. Nice views, but not that amusing for kids under 5.
Of course the first thing to import here would be reliable, regular intercity train service. Here’s the train website.
3. There seem to be bike paths next to every road, even 4-lane highways. For example, we rode the 8K trip to a summer cottage, from Tampere to Niihama, on a beautiful trail through the woods. In Helsinki, there are bike paths all over the city, too, even though the streets barely have room for cars.
In general, it seems like traffic goes about 10 miles per hour slower all over, city or highway. Could be we were riding with cautious drivers, but there are lots of “traffic-calming” features like roundabouts, curvy roads and bumpy cobblestone streets that would explain this.
You can decide if this is an advance or not.