The recommendations of the new Green Paths routing tool for the Helsinki Metropolitan Area are based on real-time air quality data and noise level measurements conducted throughout the city. The application helps its users avoid busy streets and still reach their destinations as quickly as possible.
The app was developed by the University of Helsinki’s Digital Geography Lab research team as part of the Healthy Outdoor Premises for Everyone HOPE project coordinated by the City of Helsinki. The released application is a prototype which currently functions within Helsinki, Espoo, Vantaa and Kauniainen – i.e. municipalities where the requisite data is available.
Healthier and more pleasant routes
“Usually route planners offer the fastest or most direct routes with zero consideration to how pleasant and healthy they are,” says Professor Tuuli Toivonen of the Digital Geography Lab research team, which operates at the University of Helsinki’s Department of Geosciences and Geography.
“By guiding cyclists and pedestrians to more pleasant environments, the route planner aims to promote health and well-being among city residents. We hope that it will also steer urban traffic towards responsibility and sustainability in terms of the climate,” says Age Poom, a University of Helsinki researcher who worked on the application.
“The Green Paths app is a great example of how the open and more accurate air quality data developed through the HOPE project can be leveraged to make Helsinki a better place to live for everyone,” describes Jussi Kulonpalo, project manager for the HOPE project at the City of Helsinki Economic Development Division.
Benefit from spatial information and open data
The Green Paths route planner relies on the assessment of time-based environmental exposure. The tool optimises route choices on the basis of environmental exposure cost and the duration of the trip. It uses these to suggest a group of routes from the shortest to longer and healthier ones.
The route planner utilises open environmental data as well as real-time air quality data, the production of which is currently being developed by the Finnish Meteorological Institute. As regards noise data, the average modelled road traffic noise levels provided by the Finnish Environment Institute and municipalities are used. The street and trail network for route optimisation is retrieved from the crowdsourced OpenStreetMap database.
The source code for the route planner has been published openly on GitHub. The tool also includes a programming interface, which can be used to export environmentally optimised routing results to other applications. The availability of the source code will help other developers consider environmental cost factors in their travel applications.
The Green Paths route planner can be found on the mobile website https://green-paths.web.app/ (in Finnish and English).
The Green Paths route planner was developed by Joose Helle, Age Poom, Tuomas Väisänen and Tuuli Toivonen at the University of Helsinki Digital Geography Lab as part of the Urban Innovation Action HOPE – Healthy Outdoor Premises for Everyone project, with funding from the European Regional Development Fund. The City of Helsinki Economic Development Unit bears the principal responsibility for the UIA HOPE project.
Healthy Outdoor Premises for Everyone HOPE is a project funded by the European Regional Development Fund’s Urban Innovative Action programme and coordinated by the City of Helsinki. It develops new precise information on air quality and its innovative utilisation at the level of city districts and residents.
Digital Geography Lab is an interdisciplinary research team focusing on spatial Big Data analytics for fair and sustainable societies. We aim to understand spatial and temporal interactions between people, society and the environment, from local to global scales.