Me: So it looks like there will be a lot of hot air and worst flying around following the decision of the Vienna state government to increase the cost of parking in the nine central districts within the Gürtel – the city’s inner ring road.
Mr. Angry: Well yes frankly when you’ve spent forever trying to find a parking space it’s extremely infuriating to then have to pay for the privilege and now it’s going to cost even more. You can see the point can’t you? Plus the costs of other city services are going up significantly and we’re already one of Europe’s most expensive cities. So we’ve got good reason to complain, haven’t we! I think people should be having a jolly good moan and express lots of heartfelt outrage about this…….we’d all agree on that wouldn’t we?
Me: Hmm…Well if we were talking about the city having to hike up the cost of water charges etc after years of holding back increases you might have a point. If you wanted to talk about the level of city debt and its consequences for services and prices you might have something to get your teeth into. It is really all about politics and choice – past, present and future. By the way, if you really want to talk, rant, or even do something about such issues there is a rather novel, if modern(ish), solution…….go join a political party or at least give some time to a community or campaign group. All over Europe, engagement in political parties is (and has been for years) in decline and then people complain about the quality of politics and their politicians – sorry you get the politics you do or don’t invest in.
Mr. Angry: Okay…uh hmm….well I’m busy and anyway….it’s…it’s…Look this isn’t the point! We are talking about the ‘rip off’ increase in parking charges in central Vienna! You’re surely going to agree with me on that? It’s obviously wrong, disgusting and immoral!
Me: Vienna has one of the best integrated transport systems in Europe and if you don’t want to use the buses, trains, or trams that can frankly get you comfortably from one side of the city to the other in under an hour, well you could always use your bike and take advantage of the good (and growing) network of cycle routes.
Mr. Angry: But, but….but….Ah public transport also costs a fortune and anyway it’s not reliable! So what’s your answer to that?
Me: Well, where shall I start? Reliability: I’ve used the system heavily for about a year now, at peak times and off peak. The phrase that springs to mind is ‘highly reliable’, oh and often easier to get from A to B than when I’ve used the car to do the same journeys. In the past year I have been late for work once due to a train delay. On the few times the trams have delay my journey it’s generally been because of a car hitting or being hit by a tram. Expense: One cost in Vienna that’s coming down is the price of a year ticket for the whole public transport system – from next May the price will fall from its current 449 Euros to 365 Euros. By the way, if you don’t have a year or month pass but do have a season ticket for Austria Wien FC (or the other lot) you can travel free to and from the match. Real cost: It’s true that Vienna is one of Europe’s greenest cities and we may continually, in quality of life surveys, score as one of the top three cities in the world in which to live. However, we have our problems and some of the biggest (and lets ignore some of the other so-called problems some political party’s make up) are linked to cars. The city has an awful lot of them and it has real issues about air quality. Now this is not all linked to cars but heavily congested roads are a significant factor. The state also needs to do more about rising CO2 emissions.
Mr. Angry: Yes, no, but…..hang on, you keep saying you’re an English Liberal! So what happen to my right to choose to drive my car? Well what’s your answer to that then?
Me: Yep, that’s me an English Liberal – freedom, justice and fairness. I didn’t say you, me or anyone else should be denied the right to have or enjoy a car (or even cars). I do think that we should have the freedom to choose, enjoy, oh and be responsible for our choices. So in that spirit we can look again at the city of Vienna. The government provides, at some subsidy, an efficient and effective integrated transport system. The reduction in the year ticket price also has a fairness benefit to those in society with the least choice regarding travel and transport. You still have the choice to drive and park a car in the central areas or use an equally efficient (or better) alternative. If you choose for good or bad reasons to drive then the city seeks (on behalf of everyone) compensation for the cost of dealing with the consequences of your choice. All every reasonable and Liberal won’t you agree?
Mr. Angry: No, no ..NO!! You are just twisting the argument. I already pay my taxes and this is just government interference…and not very Liberal, free market and all that you talk about!
Me: Well recently on my blog I posted a rather good explanation of Liberal attitudes to the market. Let me quote it for you: ‘Liberals believe that the market should be allowed to function without government intervention when it is succeeding and delivering including in a way that does not lead to socially unfair outcomes or exploitation; but when a market is not operating in either a fair or an open manner, liberals firmly believe that this is when Governments should intervene, to right the wrongs of market failure ……….’ In this case the true cost of using a car is not just road maintenance etc. It’s also the environmental impact now and in the future. Moreover, a distorted market that makes using the car cheaper than its real cost is a distortion that drives (excuse the pun) people into decisions they would not choose given full knowledge and real cost.
Mr. Angry: Bah!!! You just don’t like cars. Anyway, I’ve got to go. I’m late for my doctor’s appointment; they just don’t seem to be able to solve my breathing problem.
Me: Actually, I love driving. We just all have to take responsibility for our actions in a society where we are lucky enough to have freedom of choice. Hope things go well with the doctor.