Tourists cause delays on the 9 tram
Re-routing the 9 tram to the West Terminal has slowed down its passage. One solution to the problem is the installation of new ticket
vending machines. More departures are also being considered.
by Katja Okkonen
Small country, small problems, one might say, but sometimes it's the little things that cause most annoyance.
Take traffic bottlenecks, for instance. Helsinki has just gained one of its own making.
Yerin Jeon, Miae Kweon and Yechan Jeon, three South Koreans on a world tour, carry large suitcases.
Their journey will soon continue to St. Petersburg by boat, but right now on this Wednesday evening they are waiting in downtown Helsinki for the arrival of the 9 tram on Kaivokatu - without tickets.
“We know we ought to have bought our tickets from a vending machine,” they say.
“It’s difficult, though, because we don’t know where to find one,” Yerin Jeon tells us.
They board the tram, and within moments, there is a long line of passengers waiting to buy tickets.
A ferry bound for Tallinn is scheduled to leave at almost the same time as the St. Petersburg boat, and that’s where Ulla Mikkonen, from Helsinki, is headed.
“I was curious about the new route, so I took the tram from end to end when it was first changed. I noticed then that the tram stood at this stop for a long time because so many people were trying to get a ticket. I thought that surely something could be done.”
Helsinki Region Transport (HSL) is aware of the issue. However, solving the problem will take its own sweet time.
Eija Tuomonen, the traffic expert in charge of that particular route, says that traffic has been particularly congested in front of the central railway station, on Kaivokatu.
A new ticket vending machine has been ordered, but it may take up to a month for it to arrive.
A new machine has already been installed at the West Terminal.
“It helps a little,” says Tuomonen. “Russian tourists, in particular, come in droves, causing 3-4 tramcars to fill up completely.”
The passengers on the Tallinn boats also cause spikes in congestion, as they also buy tickets from the driver.
Also, some people who have already bought a ticket stand in line for no good reason, believing all the time they must show their ticket to the driver.
There are language problems, too.
“Travelers don’t necessarily speak English. We’ve requested that Russian instructions be placed in the terminal,” says Tuomonen.
More departures have also been considered, says Tero Anttila, department head at HSL.
More frequent departures would most likely be scheduled for Sundays, when the interval between trams is greater than on weekdays. This would most likely be a temporary solution.
“People travel by boat mainly in the summer, so it’s probably not necessary for us to make permanent changes,” says Anttila.
The No. 9’s route changed about a month ago, and it started to travel to the West Terminal at the former island of Jätkäsaari.
At the same time, the number 15 bus stopped going to the West Terminal from Elielinaukio, next to the Central Railway Station.
There’s no data on the number of passengers, but Anttila’s hunch is that the tram attracts more people off the boats than did the bus.
There were also long lines onto the buses, but these didn’t congest traffic in the same way as the queues on board the tram. The queues on Kaivokatu have also slowed down the 6, 3B, and 3T tram lines.
Nonetheless, Passenger Traffic Manager at the Port of Helsinki Jussi Malm says that he’s received positive feedback about the trams.
“The journey is noticeably faster, and trams go far more frequently than buses.”
Katja Lahti, who is also on her way to Tallinn, is well pleased.
“Now I can get straight to the terminal. There’s also more room on the trams than on the buses, which were always completely packed.”
Helsingin Sanomat / First published in print 8.9.2012
More on this subject:
COMMENT: Traffic woes worse than expected at Ruoholahti
Previously in HS International Edition:
Overnight stays by Russian tourists up by 28 per cent in June from 2011 (17.8.2012)
Helsinki Trams (Wikipedia)
Helsinki Region Transport
Port of Helsinki