Learning From Helsinki: How to Improve Mass Transit in New York


The Sagamore Rooftop Lounge

189 West 89th Street NY, NY10024 (Entrance at Amsterdam Avenue)

MARCH 26, 2019, 7–9 PM

There is no fee to attend this event, but registration is required. Register here.

A panel discussion co-hosted by The Finnish Cultural Institute in New York and FCINY’s architect-in-residence Olli Hakanen

Respondents: Dr. Robert E. Paaswell (CUNY), Architect Michael R. King (Traffic Calmer), Dr. Alison Conway (CUNY), and Dr. Bernadita Calinao (WALKSPAN).

Moderator: Jaakov Schulman (Columbia University, Masters student at the School of International and Public Affairs)

It is Saturday afternoon in mid-town Manhattan and one is stuck in traffic en route to the airport for an important flight. Horns are beeping, buses clog intersections, single passenger taxis fight to no avail for a way out of the gridlock. Even some subway lines are not running because it is the weekend. This is a scenario New Yorkers are too familiar with. Does it have to be this way?

Based on experience with his Helsinki projects, our current architect-in-residence Olli Hakanen will introduce a faster and more efficient mass transit system that provides better accessibility to the centers of cities than private cars.

In Finland’s capital Helsinki, conversion of the current railway system into a pendulum system would more than double the number of trains operating to the city. Rapid Tram-trains connecting Helsinki Airport and the city center to railway and subway systems and other mass transit would multiply the amount of passengers entering the city on rails. A huge area of land currently occupied by an inefficient traffic system would be freed for development. Land use benefits make the necessary investments on the integrated system of mobility services possible. 

After years of preliminary studies, Helsinki Quick Step solution was created during 2016–2018. Hakanen got the breakthrough idea while researching urban mobility in New York City during his first stay as architect-in-residence of the Finnish Cultural Institute in November–December 2015. The focus on people flow instead of vehicle streams would lead to new urban mobility and sustainable urbanism. Mobility as a Service (MaaS) is not just one new feature of current transport systems. Hakanen argues that MaaS is the core logic of a new ecologically and economically wiser system with huge positive impact on everyday life of people and the wellbeing of nature. Rapid mass transit, smart travel chains, and last mile services by various types of autonomous vehicles, create an integrated system of urban mobility urgently needed to accommodate the powerful growth of mega cities. Urban environment without danger, noise and pollution by traffic will be reformed to respond to the needs of pedestrians and bicyclists.

By presenting the concepts People Flow Master Plan and Freight Flow Master Plan, Hakanen urges NYC to ascend as the world number one mobility integrator to answer the challenges of the new millennium. Learning From Helsinki will demonstrate how an innovative reuse of infrastructure transforms congestions into rapid fluent people flow. The Tram-Train Platooning System moves more people, in less time, using less space and letting passengers exploit travel time to their benefit. “All time is life time” is Hakanen's motto as a mass transit architect.

To showcase positive impacts of wise urban mobility, he will present some preliminary studies of a tram-train platooning system operating on highways in NYC, with a special focus on Highway 278 and Queens Brooklyn Expressway.


The event is free of charge. Seating is limited, please RSVP through this link to secure your seat. For additional information about the event, please email


7 PM: Welcome

Olli Hakanen:
Learning From Helsinki – How to Improve NYC Mass Transit – Transforming the 20th Century Transportation Infrastructure into a Platform of the 21th Century Integrated Mobility Services – Initiative for the NYC People Flow Master Plan and the Freight Flow Master Plan

Dr. Robert E. Paaswell (CUNY):
Maas Transit in NY and in NYC looked at through People Flow Planning Glasses.

Dr. Alison Conway (CUNY):
How Freight Flow Planning Could Make People Flow More Fluent and vice versa.

Michael R. King (Traffic Calmer):
What does Traffic Calming mean? Traffic Calming as a Component of People Flow Master Plan

Dr. Bernardita Calinao (WALKSPAN):
Walking the Core of People Flow, Walkability evaluation as a Component of People Flow Master Plan

Refreshments will be served

Olli Hakanen is a Finnish architect, entrepreneur and Director Of Helsinki Quick Step and Helsinki Stream City Projects. He founded Respace Company in 1995. His work has been published in international architectural reviews like A+U. He studied micro mobility as the architect of the spearhead projects of strategic workspace consultancy in Finland. Since 2009 Hakanen has been interested in new urban mobility. He regards rapid mass transit, smart travel chains, last mile services by autonomous vehicles, walkability and an excellent network of biking routes the essence of sustainable urbanism. Hakanen studies and develops new architecture created by the desire for symbiosis between human made and natural environment. Creation of Helsinki Quick Step solution (2016–2018) was supported by the Ministry of Transport and Communications. The follow-up Helsinki Stream City Project (2018) was supported by the Ministry of Environment. His proposals for New York City were created during his stay as the architect-in-residence of the Finnish Cultural Institute in New York January-March 2019

Dr. Bernardita Calinao PhD, cSBA, is the Founder and CEO of Walkspan, a company specialized to evaluate walkability of the streetscape. Dr. Calinao has developed an mobile application to guide people use the most convenient route for their purpose and taste. The application evaluate streets in seven categories rating them in five classes according the user experience. Dr. Calinao company has patented the application.  

Dr. Alison Conway is an Associate Professor in the Department of Civil Engineering at the City College of New York, where she has taught courses in transportation engineering and planning since 2009.  Dr. Conway's research is primarily focused in the area of commercial freight policy and logistics.  Before beginning at CCNY, she worked as a Graduate Research Assistant at the Center for Transportation Research at The University of Texas at Austin.  Dr. Conway is a member of the Transportation Research Board (TRB), the Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE), and the Women's Transportation Seminar (WTS), and serves as a Young Member on TRB's Freight Data and Truck Size and Weight Standing Committees. 

Michael R. King is an architect, (M.Arch, Columbia University, B.Arts/Arch, Washington University) a specialist on traffic, new mobility and their impact on urban fabric and space. His company TrafficCalmer is making projects world wide, planning and designing complete streets, mobility networks, tactical urbanism, transit stations, transportation planning and urban design.


 Dr. Robert E. Paaswell is the Director of Cuny institute for Urban Systems and Director Emeritus of University Transportation Research Center (UTRC). He has served as the Interim President of the City College of New York. He has experienced organizing mass transit as the CEO of Chicago Transit authority. During his career Paaswell has been involved in transportation operations, management and planning.