Tram Life: Kakkonen & Kolmonen

September 2, 2014


My version of Helsinki’s tram schematic.

Today we’ll be covering tram routes 2 and 3, known in Finnish as kakkonen and kolmonen, respectively. The reason for covering both in a single post is because of their unholy union, deeply and seemingly irreversibly rooted in reality. The 2 and 3 make up the grotesque figure-8 on the map above, the dark and light green lines who cross over right at the Central Railway Station.

The 2 and 3 are some of the most-utilized lines in Helsinki. Starting from Kaivopuisto in the southeast, the 2 heads northbound via Kauppatori and utilizes an interlaced track segment in the center to get from Aleksanterinkatu to the Central Railway Station. From there it heads southwest to Kamppi then turns north to serve the entirety of Töölö before finally heading east to its layover. From the layover at Eläintarha it continues east as the 3 which heads south via Kallio, Hakaniemi, and back to the Central Railway Station in the opposite direction before continuing through Punavuori and Ullanlinna where it finishes its tenure as the 3 at Kaivopuisto and continues on as the 2 again. If that’s not confusing enough, imagine trying to figure out which one to take at the Central Railway Station, where the two lines cross: You have the option to take the 2 or 3 in both directions. To make matters worse, when the line was relabeled a few years ago from the 3B/3T to the 2/3, they bafflingly chose to number the line that actually looks like a number 2 on the map 3. Naturally, the line that draws an S on the map is actually the 2. Sigh.


Outbound 2 on the gauntlet track between Rautatientori and Aleksanterinkatu

The 2/3 is also one of the latest-running lines in the system, continuing to ply Helsinki’s streets until around 02:00. Its continued operation late into the night makes it oft-used by bar- and club-goers as something of a pre-funk venue. The last run of the line is always littered with empty Jaloviina bottles and spilled beer running the length of the coach, and the occasional transient being coaxed back to consciousness by the operator at the end of the run is not a rare sight. In fact, the last part is really not all that uncommon any time of day. I was waiting at the tram stop in mid morning the other day and I witnessed a drunk old man, completely unconscious, sprawled across the platform being dragged by police officers into a waiting ambulance.


Inbound 3 leaving Porvoonkatu

The 3 is the lifeline of the neighborhood of Punavuori. Punavuori is one of Helsinki’s primary neighborhoods and is the center for a lot of Finnish design shops and cool cafes, and is where the artsy crowd and famous people in Finland spend most of their time. The neighborhood oozes fashion, and the streets of Punavuori are palpably crowded with beautiful and seemingly important people (many of whom are probably legitimately important as well). The 3 runs right through the center of Punavuori along Frederikinkatu and is fundamentally part of the neighborhood’s character.

The meandering path of the 2/3 all but guarantees riders will board and alight somewhere along a relatively straight path. One could certainly get from Kallio to Töölö using the line as a one-seat-ride, but there are at least half a dozen quicker and easier ways to make the same trip. Continuing with the trend of Helsinki failing to utilize the massive investment of the Metro as a high-capacity and extremely frequent means of connecting the northeast quarter of the city to the center and western portions, the 2/3 runs as duplicative service not only to the Metro but to several other tram lines for much of its route. To achieve what I am proposing, first, about 400 meters of new track would need to be laid on Frederikinkatu between Bulevardi and Kamppi. Once laid, the 2 and 3 should be routed as a single line, the 3. The 3 would start near Kaivopuisto at the existing 3’s terminus and continue along the normal routing through Punavuori. Instead of heading into the city center along Bulevardi it would continue straight up Frederikinkatu past the 6’s east-west route to the Kamppi Metro station (both the 6 and the Metro would provide easy transfer points to the city center) where it would meet up with (and follow) the 2’s current right-of-way. Instead of turning south through Kallio the 3 would continue east through Sörnäinen (another Metro transfer point) to finish its route around Hauhon Puisto. These changes, by encouraging riders to make quick and easy transfers, get us closer to completing the grid in Helsinki. In addition to creating a huge mobility asset in the form of a generally north-south connection on the west side of the city center, we free up a considerable amount of service hours by removing duplicative service elsewhere. Those service hours could then be allocated as extra runs on the 9, for example, to make up for less 3 service through Kallio. The current architecture of the tram network (the 2 and 3 included) does essentially nothing to encourage Metro usage. Instead, trams are almost a competitor to the Metro. Since the Metro is already there, has a massive capacity, is entirely grade-separated, and runs extremely reliably and frequently, trams should be focused on getting people to the Metro, not taking them along the same path.

Tram Life 1
Tram Life 2/3
Tram Life 4
Tram Life 6
Tram Life 7
Tram Life 8
Tram Life 9
Tram Life 10
Tram Life

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