Higher education students are readily seen as an important part of the attraction and vitality of the Capital Region. The current City Strategy of Helsinki has an almost identical policy. However, life in the Capital Region is expensive, the most expensive in Finland, and a large share of students have low income. As student benefits are determined on the state level, municipalities have only a few ways to support students in their own area. One such way – and one that reaches everyone – is a discount on public transport. Distances in the Capital Region are long, and as many as 80% of higher education students use public transport at least a couple of times per week. Now, however, the student discounts on public transport are in danger.
After the turn of the year, Helsinki Region Transport (HSL) will introduce a new zone system for determining ticket prices. Along with the move to the new zone system in 2019, plans have been made to change discount practices, with the 50% student discount in danger. Underlying these plans is a decision by the National Non-Discrimination and Equality Tribunal of Finland according to which HSL’s current practice – students aged 30 or over only get the discount if they receive student aid or rehabilitation allowance – is discriminatory and cannot be continued. As the number of recipients of the discount thus increases, HSL has as of yet not seen any other option than to lower the student discount percentage.
The World Student Capital (WSC) network, comprising the student unions of the Capital Region, has been actively contacting decision-makers and attempting to influence statements of the municipalities of the Capital Region in order to retain the 50% student discount in HSL despite the increasing number of recipients of the discount. Helsinki and Espoo have now expressed their desire to retain the student discount at 50%, whereas Vantaa has focused on the principle of equality in its statement. However, the final decision on the discount will be made by HSL’s Board on 30 October.
World Student Capital wants to invite you to participate in our advocacy work! Tell us and HSL why the student discount on public transport is important to you in particular on social media. You may for example write or record a short video. Remember to tag both HSL and WSC in your post and to use the hashtags #säilytetään50% (‘retain the 50 % discount’) and #hyyhelsinki. We can make our voice heard together and ensure that students will have affordable public transport in the future, too!
Member of the Board, Student Union of the University of Helsinki, member of the World Student Capital Network