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Helsinki may offer city employees free public transport for a year

With free public transport, Helsinki is seeking to raise ridership to pre-Covid levels.

In the future, Helsinki city employees may ride trams free of charge if a recent proposal goes through city council. Image: Susanne Salin / Yle

The city of Helsinki plans to give its employees free year-long HSL season tickets.

The city's Urban Environment Division proposed to the city government that it, together with Helsinki's transit authority HSL, should begin to investigate this possibility. The proposal was unanimously approved by the division this week and will go to city council next week.

Free ticket would bump ridership

With free public transport tickets for the city's own employees, Helsinki would try to boost ridership to pre-Covid levels.

Deputy Mayor Anni Sinnemäki (Green), chair of the Urban Environment Division, said that the public transport situation is difficult at the moment. According to Sinnemäki, it is important to attract people to use public transport, and with the city of Helsinki being Finland's largest employer with almost 40,000 employees it could be a huge boon for ridership.

"When petrol and diesel are expensive and the price of food rises, it would make people's lives easier if the employer could offer such a ticket," Sinnemäki told Yle.

Sinnemäki suggested that the benefit would be available to all willing employees of the city of Helsinki. For example, a city employee living in Tuusula could get to work in the centre of Helsinki for free, but Sinnemäki said that the details will be specified at a later point.

Smoothing over the salary mess

Sinnemäki also offered that the benefit of a free ticket could be seen as the employer offering a helping hand to its employees in the midst of the city's payroll issues.

While Sinnemäki said that the salary situation was not discussed at the division meeting, according to her, she believes that the ticket benefit would be a good solution.

"[The city's] reputation as an employer has taken a pretty big hit in this salary matter. The ticket benefit is not a bad thing from that point of view either," said Sinnemäki.

Less money from city to HSL

HSL's finances have been struggling recently, however, Sinnemäki explained that the city would not pay more money to the public transport operator. In fact, she layed out that it could even be the opposite.

"From the point of view of the people of Helsinki, it would work so that if the city, as an employer, invested in the future travel ticket as an employee benefit, it would reduce the municipal subsidy that Helsinki would have to pay to HSL," Sinnemäki explained.

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