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How public transport works in the Helsinki City Region

The Helsinki City Region consists of four cities: Helsinki, Vantaa, Espoo and Kauniainen. All together they have around 1 million inhabitants, Helsinki being the biggest with a little over half a million. All the cities have their own internal bus routes and tickets (one zone/town) except for Kauniainen (which is very small) that uses Espoo tickets and routes. There are also regional routes and trains that operate in the region across city limits. Each towns tickets are also valid on these routes in that particular town, but to cross a city limit you need a regional ticket that is valid in all the towns (zones) in the area.

Each city commissions its own internal bus routes. The regional routes (buses and trains) are commissioned by a special cooperation body for the area (that does other things as well) called YTV. Buses are operated by several different companies and all routes have been competed for at least once. All the local train routes are currently being run by the State Railways but there has been talk about opening these for competition as well.

A wide selection of buses is in use in the region. Most buses have a 2+2+1 door configuration. Some models on longer routes have 2+2 or 1+1 doows and new buses on short urban routes have 2+2+2. The extra doors reduce the amount of seats, but also shorten the time spent at stops. There is always space for at least two prams opposite the middle doors.

Ticket pricing is quite reasonable in the region. Single fare tickets cost around 10 marks (1£, 2$) for adults in one city and 17 marks for regional tickets. The tickets are generally valid for one hour for switching buses and trains (plus trams, metros and Suomenlinna ferrys in Helsinki) though some long routes have slightly longer times. Childrens (under 17) tickets generally cost about half the amount of an adult ticket and under 7 year-olds get to travel for free. Students in the area get a discount on their tickets. All frequent users naturally have a 30 day (or even 1 year) pass.

The regional transport system is currently moving to electronic ticketing. The system is based on the system by Buscom and uses thermally printed tickets for single trips and contactless (radio) smart cards for everything else. This is a major change that has been in preparation for several years and should be completed by the end of 2002.