Tram Life: Ysi

November 30, 2014

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My version of Helsinki’s tram schematic.

For the penultimate segment of Tram Life we’ll be covering the 9. The 9 runs through some of Helsinki’s most iconic areas, including my personal favorite alignment along Porthaninkatu in the heart of Kallio. There’s something about a tram running up a hill that really does it for me. The grade of Porthaninkatu isn’t steep enough to require any sort of fancy traction techniques, but it’s steep enough to call a hill. The road’s surface is still the original cobblestone variety which makes for a very charming little segment, if you’re into that sort of thing.

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The 9 starting to head down Porthaninkatu.

The 9 is really a lovely line. It’s not my favorite line overall (the 8 takes the cake in that regard), but it provides a lot of good connectivity and part of it runs on my favorite (very short) alignment in the system. The 9 starts at Pasila station and can be thought of as providing infill service in a north-south manner from Pasila. It runs through the densely-populated neighborhoods to the east of the heavy rail mainline a bit south of Pasila until it hits Kallio. It turns briefly onto Helsinginkatu and again onto Kaarlenkatu where it joins the 1 and the 3 before heading down the south slope of Kallio via Porthaninkatu where it joins the 6 and the 7 at Hakaniemi Metro station. It continues through the center of town passing Rautatieasema and continuing along with the 2 just south of the Kamppi shopping center. Beyond Kamppi it splits away from the 2 and services the weird no-man’s-land south of Kamppi but north of Bulevardi before joining up with the 6T at Hietalahti and providing all-day service to the ferry terminal at Länsiterminaali.

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The 9 blurring out of view away from Karhupuisto.

The 9 is a bit of a hybrid. Its identity is split between the major population centers it serves. From Länsiterminaali to the city center it’s packed with Finns coming back from Estonia lugging crates of beer (the alcohol is much cheaper in Estonia, so most Finns take weekend trips and stock up). On the other side of the center it’s a serious contender for Kallio’s tram (if that title wasn’t already taken by the 8). With its late runs and central alignment it shuttles partygoers and day drinkers alike through central Kallio. Finally, its northern segment is a no-frills connection that carries travelers getting off long-distance trains at Pasila to their flats in Alppila and northern Kallio. The 9 is probably the best-anchored line in the system, but some points are taken off by the irregular nature of the ferry schedules. With a whole host of other high-traffic destinations along the alignment, when a ferry is docked the 9 is packed from start to finish and is relied on by a huge number of riders.

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The 9 sitting in from of Länsiterminaali on layover.

The 9 is the only route in the system that I wouldn’t change at all. Much like the 6 it runs along with duplicative service for a fair amount of its route, but also like the 6 it’s the best-suited to service those areas, so instead of changing it, my proposal changes the duplicative service leaving the 9 as it is. With a huge amount of money it would be wise to extend the 9 north from Pasila to the Ilmala train station on the west side of the main line, but that’s certainly not a pressing issue and not likely to happen any time soon.


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Tram Life: Kasi

November 5, 2014

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My version of Helsinki’s tram schematic.

In this installment we will cover Kallio’s lifeline: The 8. Some people might say the 8 doesn’t run through Kallio at all, and perhaps they’d favor the 3 or the 9 as Kallio’s tram. I respectfully disagree with this view for a few simple reasons. First and foremost, nowhere else in Helsinki is drunken depravity as commonplace as on the 8 in the middle of the day. Second, the 8’s alignment and service corridor make pretty much the entirety of Kallio in its walkshed. The 8 is a lone and desperately-needed crosstown service north of the city center (but south of the 7), so any time anybody in Kallio needs to travel to the northwest quarter of the city the 8 is their only option. The Kalliolainen, more than anybody else in Helsinki, has been largely successful at shaking off metrophobia and embracing the Metro as the quickest and easiest route to the city center. Since the walkshed of Hakaniemi and Sörnäinen cover the entirety of center-bound trips from Kallio, most other trips are best served by the 8. Thus we arrive at why the 8 is Kallio’s tram.

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The 8 making its way down Helsinginkatu in Kallio.

The 8 is the dark purple route on the map above making its way all the way from Arabianranta in the northeast, via a crosstown alignment through the north side of Kallio along Helsinginkatu, through the heart of Töölö, providing a bit of infill service before the Ruoholahti Metro station, and finally to the new residential developments on Jätkäsaari in the southwest.

The 8 is an extremely popular route. Between the riders heading from Arabia into town, or the ones coming from Kallio heading to Töölö or Ruskeasuo, or the ones going from Töölö to Ruoholahti the tram is almost always full. The tail on Jätkäsaari is the only empty portion of it these days, but that will change once people start moving into the new housing there. Providing such crucial east-west service, the most popular stretch of the route is between Sörnäinen and Ooppera with a huge influx of riders at each stop looking for a quick connection to the other side of town. This stretch is also home to some of Kallio’s most (in)famous bars, many of which cater to the daytime drinkers (read: alcoholics) roaming the streets of Helsinki in search of a quick fix. When the weather gets colder many of these people hop on the 8 to either kill time while shielded from the elements or to get from one bar to another. It’s best not to make eye contact.

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The 8 crossing Crusellinsilta from Ruoholahti into Jätkäsaari.

Interestingly, not only is this line numbered the same as Metro’s #8 in Seattle, but both routes provide the only crosstown service immediately north of the city center. As such, the routes are crucial pieces to the complete transit picture in both cities. There isn’t much I would change about the 8, but an easy win is changing the terminal from Arabianranta (which it shares with the 6) to Kalasatama. Kalasatama doesn’t currently have surface rail, so this would require a substantial infrastructure investment, but the area is being rapidly developed and plans to house thousands of new residents within the next decade are in the works so installing this infrastructure is already on the horizon for HSL. Start the new 8 at the south end of Kalasatama and run it through the dense new housing developments to the Kalasatama Metro station, then run it west to meet up with its existing alignment starting at Sörnäinen.


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