In the 1950s, there were less parking spaces in front of Helsinki Airport than next to a mid-sized supermarket car park of today. But by the 1970s, when a new terminal was introduced, the number of parking spaces already had risen to 600. As parking became subject to a charge, a gate was installed at the entrance with a conductor sat next to it.
The first indoor car park was built in the 1980s and was introduced to drivers at the end of the decade. It was the P1/P2 hall in front of Terminal 2, whose demolition started recently. During its 29 years, it served 13 million parked cars.
Leaps in safety and technology
Today, there are about 10,000 parking spots at Helsinki Airport. The closing of the old car park was prepared in 2016 with the opening of car park P5, one of the largest car parks in Finland. Once the new parking hall is finished, the number of parking spaces will increase even more.
“Over the years, the number of cars has multiplied, and safety and technology have developed immensely. All of this has affected our parking services,” says Niko Ropa, Landside Traffic Manager of Helsinki Airport at Finavia.
Nowadays, you can pre-book your parking space, and drivers are assisted with digital guidance, license plate identification, mobile payment and intelligent lighting. Surveillance and safety have also improved.
However, certain things have remained unchanged. The holiday season is still the busiest time of year, bringing occasional traffic jams to the car parks. People arriving with their own cars have made up one third of the customers of Helsinki Airport for quite some time. Their profiles vary, as with people who use public transport.
“Both business and holiday passengers both arrive at the airport by range of transport options. Someone chooses public transport in order to use the travel time for working, someone wants to drive even though it would be hundreds of kilometres to the airport,” Ropa says.
Electric cars and robot buses
The technical development of cars also affects the parking services at Helsinki Airport. For example, as the number of electric cars is increasing car parks are getting more charging points. The charging points in the new parking hall have already been determined in the planning phase.
Niko Ropa believes that automation will also increase. Automated robot buses have been tested at Helsinki Airport, but for now, the technology still requires a human driver to be present.
“As technology advances, we might have an automatic bus that drives through different parking areas to the terminals right picking customers up when they need a ride. That would be efficient for both time and emissions.”