In the limelight

The MAL 2019 plan will determine the direction of the Helsinki region

Heikki Salmikivi, Head of Unit
City of Helsinki, Urban Environment Division
MAL land use secretary

MAL 2019 is the joint, strategic plan of 14 municipalities in the Helsinki region, which defines how the Helsinki region is developed in the future. The plan is a road map of how to react to the region’s pressure to grow, how to decrease traffic emissions and with what kind of investments the sustainable development of the region is ensured. The plan concentrates on defining the development of the region up to the year 2030, but it will also mirror development directions up to the year 2050.

The starting point of the MAL plan is that in the year 2050 the Helsinki region will contain two million residents and over one million jobs. Compared to 2018, this means an increase of approximately 500,000 residents and 300,000 jobs. The strategic objectives of the plan are indicative of the region’s common interests. Helsinki region will be developed as an attractive, vibrant, well-being city with low emissions. The decrease of CO2 emissions by 50% of the 2005 level by the year 2030 has been defined as a binding objective. This is in line with traffic emission decrease objectives set for Finland by the European Commission.

The MAL plan shows which methods are needed to accomplish the objectives of land use, housing, transport and decreasing emissions. At the same time it provides the framework for municipalities and the state to work together for the long-term development of the region’s land use, housing and transport.

The accepted MAL plan is a political demonstration of the desire to realise the elements presented. The plan is not a substitute for the official planning levels defined in the land use and planning act, but it provides a basis for future planning. In city planning and regional planning, many issues are addressed, which are not at the forefront of MAL planning. These issues are, for example, business operations, services, green connections, nature values, culture environment preservation and environmental health issues.

The central content of the plan

The Helsinki region is growing rapidly, therefore managing growth sustainably is one of the main objectives of the plan. The MAL 2019 plan defines the primary development zones of the region, in which the majority of future housing production will be directed. Directing growth to the current city structure and especially to areas where public transport is a competitive option when compared with a private car has been chosen as a collective policy. There is a special focus on station areas and the enabling of infill development.

The plan aims to maintain the housing production target at the current level of (16,500 units/year). A prerequisite for reaching the goal is that the municipalities determinedly work in the areas of land policy,  spatial planning, infra construction and conveyance of real estate. In addition, the housing market needs to remain favourable and the state also needs to advance the realisation of the objectives with its actions. The actions laid out in the plan ensure the sufficiency, quality, affordability and diversity of housing production, improve the quality of living environments, and advance energy efficiency of the housing stock.

In the statutory transport system plan of the region, in other words the transport section of the MAL 2019 plan, the development of the region’s transport system is addressed. We see heavy investment in rail transport and bicycle transport, and road traffic will be developed with goods transportation and public transport at the forefront. Emissions will be reduced with multiple traffic decreasing measures e.g. congestion charges and by transforming the vehicle stock into a more energy efficient and carbon neutral one.

The most vital transport investments will focus on the improvement of public transport lines. On the part of heavy rail traffic, an increase in supply has been proposed as well as the city center underground rail tunnel loop (to be constructed before the year 2030), the Espoo urban rail running between Leppävaara and Kauklahti and the Pasila–Riihimäki interval’s second phase. In addition to this, new depots next to the main railway and coastal railway have been proposed.

The first steps of the regional light rail network will be realised in the 2020s when the already constructed Raide-Jokeri and the Laajasalo Light rail travelling via the Kruunu bridges begin operating. The MAL 2019 plan proposes the development of the express tram network in a manner that by 2030 the construction of five new light railroads will have been started.

Since the pricing of public transport has a significant impact on the distribution of mode of travel and attainability, the plan proposes a 15–30% discount on public transport ticket prices by the year 2030. This would be covered by directing 30% of profits received from tolls to the reduction in ticket prices paying special attention to the residents of the areas most affected by tolls.

With the small improvement projects of the transport infrastructure, the current infrastructure usage will be enhanced, the prerequisites for cycling and public transport will be improved, exposure to traffic noise will be reduced, the functionality of heavy traffic will be improved and road safety will be improved.

In the improvement of the road network, changes required by land use and regional public transport and central connections for logistics have been prioritised.

Regional cooperation has long traditions

The 14 municipalities of the Helsinki region have cooperated extensively in the planning of regional land use. The previous regional planning round saw the Helsinki Region Land Use Plan (MASU 2050) devised, where the region’s primary development zones were defined and a regional view on the direction and magnitude of population growth was attached. The plan was a part of the package consisting of the Helsinki Region Transport System Plan (HLJ 2015) and housing strategy (ASTRA 2025). Now, for the first time, a plan has been devised that covers all themes.

The value of the plan created out of the cooperation of the municipalities is not just in the implementation but also in the process itself. The regional cooperation, based on voluntary cooperation, supplements the planning hierarchy defined in the land use and building act and as a flexible and continuous process, enables the updating of the resilience of the regional vision.

The plan is based on quality source materials

The MAL plan is based on researched information and on comprehensive GIS data collected from the municipalities. The Helsinki region has high-level data sources at its disposal, ranging from municipalities’ precise construction stock data  to good quality demographic data. While composing the plan, the municipalities’ visions on the placement and elements of the future development have been collected and a housing production estimate up to the year 2030 has been devised.

A binding objective of the plan is to reduce carbon emissions caused by transportation. When the placement of future housing production is known, we can comprehensively estimate the effects of the plan’s different measures using a transport model.

The evaluation of the effects supports the iterative planning process

The composition of the MAL 2019 plan was based on background studies, extensive participation and on thorough impact assessment. The process was divided into phases to allow evaluation to support the preparation as effectively as possible. The plan was developed using the iterative method, while systematically utilising the results of the impact assessment.

The methods of impact assessment have been divided into main indicators, support indicators and supplementing evaluation methods. The objective level placed for the seven main indicators allowed us to observe the sufficiency of the planning solutions and measures. In addition to this, qualitative expert evaluations and individual project evaluations have been completed. Experts from the municipalities, Helsinki Region Transport Authority HSL and the state have contributed to the production of evaluation data and the elaboration of conclusions. Furthermore, expert consultants were utilised. During the process, the results of the evaluation have been reviewed multiple times with stakeholders in conferences and workshops. The continuous impact assessment during the process has supported the preparation of the plan and the plan has been developed using the results of this evaluation.

The plan’s transportation part was approved by the Helsinki Region Transportation Authority HSL board and in the KUUMA board of directors. Land use and housing parts were approved by the Helsinki Metropolitan Area Cooperation Group and the approval process in region’s municipalities is under way.

On the basis of the plan, a MAL contract 2020–2023 will be negotiated between the state, the region’s municipalities and HSL where all parties will commit to advancing the mutually agreed upon measures and projects. The implementation and effects of the MAL plan’s contract will be monitored yearly.

More information can be found here (in Finnish): https://www.hsl.fi/mal/mal-2019