Bus Stop Blues

October 19, 2014

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In the wee hours of the morning on Saturday I was walking home from the bar and I walked by a middle-aged woman crying at the bus stop. I sat down and asked her what was wrong. She was hesitant to tell me about it at first and had a sort of a “it’s not worth it” attitude (which is to be expected, really), but the more I persisted the more she opened up.

She had quit her job recently (the nature of which was not specified, but it was clear she didn’t like it very much) and didn’t really have anything else lined up. I sat and talked with her for 10 or 15 minutes while she was waiting for her bus, she thought I was trying to pick her up but I assured her that I just wanted to help.

When her bus came we hugged and said goodbye, she said “thank you forever, I’m really happy that you waited with me.” She was scared and alone, and my presence didn’t offer her any sort of financial security, the likes of which it sounds like she’s in need, but the element of human interaction that I offered hopefully made a positive impact on her life in one way or another.

If you see somebody crying, stop and talk to them. Chances are they need you.

Tram Life: Seiska

October 13, 2014

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My version of Helsinki’s tram schematic.

Today we’ll be covering the 7. The 7 is the orange circular route on the map above. The 7, like the 6, is duplicative for much of its alignment, and where it’s not it’s a milk-run of epic proportions. I don’t know who thought the 7 would be a good use of service hours, but pretty much everything about this line is negative. However, as much as I’d like to axe the entire thing, it does provide much-needed crosstown connectivity through Pasila.

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A 7 running across the bridge in front of Pasila Station.

Technically the 7 is two routes: the 7A and the 7B, but these letter distinctions serve only to identify clockwise or counterclockwise running, and I would bet that only a very small percentage of the population can remember which letter corresponds to which direction. In its current manifestation, the 7 starts (or ends, depending on your perspective) at the Pasila train station. Pasila is on the main-line a few kilometers north of the central station and its a very popular destination for riders coming in on long-distance or commuter trains. From Pasila, the 7 continues clockwise toward Sörnäinen where it starts following the 6 towards the city center. It turns east through Kruununhaka along the 1’s alignment until Senaatintori where it turns west to follow Aleksanterinkatu back through the city center. It then follows the 4 and the 10 along Mannerheimintie before splitting off on its own towards Pasila again. The 7’s alignment through Länsi Pasila is an abomination of direct transit service. Inexplicably the line heads north for about 1km only to abruptly turn and head south again for about 500m a block east, not stopping a single time. This baffling alignment serves a couple of stops that would otherwise not be served, but none of them seem to be particularly high ridership. The jig results in a couple of lost minutes and a handful of riders who otherwise would have had to walk a few more blocks.

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A 7 heading south on the weird jig west of Pasila. Note the conspicuous lack of walkshed off to the right.

Nobody takes the 7 very seriously. It can’t claim to be anybody’s tram on the basis that just about everywhere in the city is better served by some other line, so instead it lumbers along its route picking up the abandoned, destitute riders who narrowly missed their preferred ride and drops them off somewhere farther from their destination than they’d like. If you actually want to take the 7 and miss your direction on a cold day when you have about an hour to burn you could settle for getting on in the opposite direction and count on eventually getting to your destination, but that’s not a particularly high-value use case either.

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A 7 heading through the sleepy ‘hood of Kruununhaka.

Unfortunately there’s not much that can be done to fix this mess and yield anything of much value without an incredible investment in new infrastructure. The clearest winner of redesigning the 7 is simply regaining service hours that can be used elsewhere. By removing the southern half of the loop altogether and anchoring the western end at Meilahden Sairaala and the eastern end at Sörnäinen Metro station we still service the otherwise-empty east-west corridor north the city center while providing decent crosstown connectivity to the huge ridership generator that is Pasila station. This will definitely cause people to lose a one-seat-ride to the city center, but if they’re getting on anywhere where the 7 is the only service they’d be much better off either transferring to the commuter rail at Pasila or the Metro at Sörnäinen for a quick ride into the center. Again this would require some work to overcome the transfer- and metrophobia here in Helsinki, but by removing one-seat-rides from here we can cost-neutrally increase frequency elsewhere which is a good thing for everybody.


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