Cultivating future transit riders

Helsinki Public Transit (HKL) run the Metro and trams in Helsinki. The core objective of HKL is to make everyday life easier for Helsinki residents. As the city is growing rapidly, there is a threat of increasing car traffic. HKL is very interested in making citizen’s end-to-end journey by public transit the most attractive way to travel in the city. One of the ways to do this is to make transit attractive to families, and in turn, cultivate future transit users by getting kids accustomed to travel on the transit system at a young age.

Transit as Service

HKL’s brief to my team in the Strategic Co-design course taught by Associate Professor Sampsa Hyysalo was to innovate new services for families using the trams, metro and services in and around the stations. After research and discussions with HKL, my team re-defined the brief and developed a capacity-building strategy for HKL’s new in-house Customer Experience team. This strategy is designed to guide HKL to collaboratively design meaningful services with and for families with the support of external service design consultants.

World’s Best Family Metro

My team developed a user-driven design approach tailored to working with families. We presented this approach in a strategy for improving existing services and discovering opportunities for services that could be experienced on transit and in stations and their surrounding communities. The approach aims to facilitate value-creation between families and services while using public transit.  The strategy is captured in a longterm vision to be the World’s Best Family Metro. To achieve this ambitious vision we proposed a service innovation program called Meidän Metro (My Metro), made up of a Triple Diamond Service Design Process comprising three phases: Understanding, Dreaming and Experimenting.


We presented the project using storytelling. We crafted a story about Veera, a transit customer and mother of two who participates in the Co-design process in the three phases. Describing our proposal in this way made our strategy less ambiguous by turning it into tangible story that is easy to understand.

storytelling Veera's experience in the dreaming phase

The Family Niche

Through design research we discovered that adults with kids are not only in charge of their own mobility, but that of their children as well, and that their motives for travel are often related to family needs. Design considerations include travel with semi-mobile toddlers and babies in prams, travel experience of children including safety, kids' special needs such as toilets and feeding, effects of peak and off-peak travel, running errands during travel and staying in touch with commuting kids.

HKL receives very high customer satisfaction ratings for punctuality and safety. We found that parents weren’t so interested in spending time improving public transit, particularly if it took away from spending time with family. Their time is limited by work schedules and the demands of family commitments. In response we proposed motivating parents with a big picture vision, for example making the Helsinki Metro the best family metro for future generations. Quick, collaborative activities should be designed. For example, shadowing or interviewing a parent during their commute, doing design probes while waiting at their child’s activity club and conducting research through family-friendly activities.

Family Benefits

With service design for public organisations, success is not necessarily measured by competitive advantage, but by the value it brings to society. Although this is difficult to measure, especially in the long-term, the benefits for adopting the Meidän Metro strategy are:

  • Cultivate future users of the Metro
  • Build the capacity of the HKL Customer Experience team
  • Deepen understanding of the travel patterns, attitudes and needs of parents, children and extended family members
  • Gain visibility during user involvement activities such as family days, public workshops, service prototyping
  • New and improved services for families scale-up to satisfy other user groups. For example, if kids feel safe, the elderly feel safe.

HKL responded very enthusiastically to our proposal, and we won first place marks out of the five design teams on presentation day.

My direct Contributions

The course and team work consisted of collaborative field research, interviews, data analysis, brainstorming, strategy development and communication through presentations and a report. My direct contributions included:

  • report design, layout and editing
  • research discovery summary and drawings
  • Triple Diamond diagram visualisation
  • benchmarking transit services and child-friendly transit and cities
  • work schedule and tasks management.