Since starting my new job, my appreciation of Vienna’s integrated transport system has been further enhanced. However, it has got me wondering about the degree to which such ‘green’ transport can really solve the problems caused by the pressures placed upon our cities by the growth of car usage.
To reach work I need to travel from one side of the city to the other. I’m not sure it would be possible to travel further without leaving the city. I jump on a tram outside my door, change for the underground which takes me across the river and deep into the 22nd District and then I complete my journey with a 15 minute trip on the bus. At no point do I have to wait more than 6 minutes (an almost unheard of occurrence) and the whole journey takes between an hour to one hour fifteen minutes. At peak times there are additional trams and buses to help limit the overcrowding (it doesn’t unfortunately always alleviate the problem but I am always able to get on and it never reaches the London sardine level of commuting).
As a now regular service user I buy a month ticket for 48 Euro which gives me unlimited access to trams, buses and trains within the city. Day and weekly tickets work out noticeably more expensive. The visitor to the city is always best advised to go to a Trafik (Newsagents) to buy a day or week ticket as this is cheaper than purchasing a one on the tram or bus. For those of us who use a month ticket we have to remember to go to one of the main stations to make a purchase.
The transport system in Vienna does not have the same level of coverage in all areas. The ticket price increases over recent years have made travel more expensive. It is however a modern, effective and integrated system. It is also noticeable, in comparison with England, that public transport users are a more socially mixed group.
Of interest to those thinking of driving a car in Vienna it is worth noting that buses have the right of way when indicating to pull out (by law not custom). More importantly always watch for the trams. If you hit a tram it’s obviously going to be your fault, but if a tram hits you it’s also going to be your fault. The only really exception to this I would guess is if the tram driver manages to derail their vehicle, hurtle across the road and crashes into your parked car – yes this really happened last year.
Since our return to Vienna R has passed regular comment on the cost of using trams and buses. She has been particularly frustrated that the Greens, on entering State government in Vienna (for the first time in any State in Federal Austria), have failed to fulfil their election promise to reduce the price of public transport. I quietly try to make the point that the price of agreeing to form a coalitions is that, in exchange for the chance to achieve some of your policies, you have to put aside your commitment to others.
So Vienna has an effective public transport system. It also has zonal parking charges in the central and some other areas, as well as expensive car parks. It’s also not unusual for larger shops to have their own underground cars park – with parking layouts that make it almost impossible for the average driver not to hit a pillar or wall. With all this infrastructure and policy Vienna still has a noticeable ‘car problem’. As the questions this raises form a greater itch under my skin, I think some further investigation of the realities of Vienna and comparison with other cities may be forthcoming.