Tram Life: Nelonen

September 12, 2014


My version of Helsinki’s tram schematic.

Today we’ll be talking about another workhorse of the Helsinki tram system. The highly-utilized and late-running number 4 (nelonen in Finnish) crosses the city in the opposite direction of the Metro. The 4 and 4T are the dark red lines running from northwest to southeast on the map above.

The 4 starts in the outskirts of the city center at Munkkiniemi and heads generally southwest for the entirety of its route, serving the Meilahti Hospital before joining up with the 10 and then the 7 to provide a high-frequency corridor on the northwest side of the city where the Metro is lacking. In the center, the 4 heads down Aleksanterinkatu past Senaatintori until Katajanokka. The 4 continues out to the end of Katajanokka, but when there’s a ferry at Katajanokan Terminaali the 4T operates instead, skipping the end of Katajanokka and instead going straight to the the terminal to shuttle passengers to the city center. The 4 has one transfer point to the Metro at Rautatieasema, the transfer is easy and the walk to the Metro platform is almost entirely underground, protected from the elements.


The 4 getting in the way of a perfectly good picture.

The 4, along with the 7 and the 10, provide a transportation backbone through the neighborhood of Töölö. Now please bear with me while I make sweeping and offensive generalizations, but there are essentially three areas in Helsinki that young people magnetize to based on their attitudes: Kallio, Punavuori, and Töölö. Each has a very different feel, and essentially every neighborhood in Helsinki can be analyzed as an offshoot of one of those three cultural centers. We talked a bit about Punavuori in the last post, and as the 3 is characteristic of Punavuori, the 4 is characteristic of Töölö. While Punavuori is fashionable and outgoing, Töölö is more reserved and responsible. Where there’s a high-end design store in Punavuori, there’s a dry cleaner or pet store in Töölö. Töölö is the place where people move when they grow up. Much of the 4’s responsibility, in fact, is shuttling the neatly-dressed and -groomed professionals of Töölö into the city for the work day. However, long after Töölö goes to sleep, the 4 keeps running; providing an essential service to the city. While the late-night 3 is a rowdy reminder of Kallio’s attitude and grit, the late-night 4 reminds us that some people are just trying to get home. The 2 and 8 certainly run closer to the heart and soul of Töölö a few blocks west of Mannerheimintie, but the 4 provides a direct shot to the city center so it’s undoubtedly the tram of choice for most Töölö-dwellers.


Just a 4 looking photogenic as fuck.

The 4 doesn’t have much about it that I would change. It’s overall a pretty solid line that helps provides much-needed mobility in an important corridor through Helsinki. However, one thing I would do is get rid of the distinction between the 4 and 4T. As with most letter distinctions with special scheduling, it’s confusing and does not lend itself to easy and spontaneous mobility. With only 100 or so meters of new track, we could do away with the 4T and simply end the line as a counterclockwise couplet. This end of the line could have a layover at the ferry terminal or could be live-looped, with a preference for the latter to allow for riders coming from the center to get home without waiting through a layover if they live after the terminal. It could then follow the new track to bridge it over to the old 4 terminal and follow the existing rail west back into the city center. That way, both the terminal and the rest of Katajanokka are always served with minimal expense.


Admittedly I got a little carried away with the long exposure.

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

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: