Category Archives: Transport

Standing room only, a sign of success!


I recently wrote about the success of the new public transport pricing scheme here in Vienna. Well it would appear from this report in the Austrian Times that it’s going to leave me standing and oddly I think that’s rather good news

To recap, in May the Red/Green State coalition government reduced the price of the annual pass from 449 Euro to 365 Euro. In addition they reduced the cost of a monthly ticket from 49.50 to 45 Euro, while increasing the weekly and day ticket prices. This leaves Vienna as one of the cheapest cities in Europe for traveling on what is one of the best public transport systems on the continent.

As an annual pass holder I am ever happy with this development but also as a resident of the city I benefit from the environmental gains achieved as more people take to public transport. With the increase of passengers using the integrated tram, bus and train system Wiener Linien (Transport Company) are having to find new ways to cope with these greater numbers. One solution is to be piloted on my local tramline, the No43. Some seats are to be removed to allow more standing room, as well as additional space for pushchairs and wheelchairs.

So will having to stand at peak times annoy me? Frankly the answer is no. To be honest we have an excellent system, well priced and the trams, buses and trains turn up on time. Standing on the tram occasionally is a small price to pay and it’s hardly London sardine hell round here.

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Filed under Austrian Politics, Environment, Green, Politics, Transport, Vienna Life

Looks like a winner for the Red/Green government


The equivalent to just over a quarter of Vienna’s citizens have bought an annual ticket for travel on the city’s public transport system. I wonder how that compares to other major cities around the world?

I’ve just been reading a report in the Austrian Times  that since May 2012 there are over 70,000 new pass holders, bringing the total up to a record breaking 450,000 people with an annual travel pass (myself included). The increase is linked to the decision of the red/green coalition, which runs Vienna State government, to reduce the ticket price from 449 Euro to 365 Euro. They also reduced the cost of a monthly ticket from 49.50 to 45 Euro, while increasing the weekly and day ticket prices. Additionally fines for fare dodgers were increased from 70 to 100 Euro’s and if it’s not my imagination the number of ticket checks have gone up.

As only 5% of all passengers prior to the changes opted for day tickets it is likely that the increase in annual passes brought will be reflected in the overall numbers using the system.

I’ve read various claims that Vienna’s fares are amongst the lowest in Europe with the average cost being in the region of 660 Euro.

The increasing numbers would appear to be a political win for the City’s red/green coalition. Particularly the Greens as the policy is seen as a direct consequence of their involvement in the State Government. More widely, any shift away from car usage (if this is indeed a consequence of this policy) in the city would be a welcome aid to efforts to tackle air quality and parking problems. Both issues that detract from a otherwise high quality of life that regularly puts Vienna in the top three ‘cities in the world to live’.

The City’s integrated transport system is view as one of the best in the world. The State Government is investing 475 million Euros this year, with total investment in transport infrastructure planned to reach 2.4 billion Euros by 2015.

 

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Filed under Austrian Politics, Environment, Green, Politics, Transport, Vienna Life

Is a barge war looming between Austria & Hungary?


An article today in the Austrian Times highlights concerns in Austria about a new Hungarian law limiting the number of cargo barge using the river Danube. It seems that the Hungarians are arguing the law is needed for environmental reason but the counter claim is that they need to put more focus on infrastructure measures and water level management.

A policy that pushes ore and coal traffic off the waterways onto road and rail is in itself environmentally damaging, so this would seem on first viewing to be an example of needing to look at the wider picture. The EU has agreements in place that are meant to increase the days of navigation on the Danube which this law aim to help achieve, but it goes against the EU target of increasing barge traffic by 20%.

The protection of the environment, shared resources and free flow of commerce are all arguments for countries to work together and pool sovereignty within the EU, for their own and the greater good. Based on his story it would appear that we are yet again failing to seeing those benefits materialising.

Getting this co-operation right is likely to become even more important as the Alpine glaciers continue to shrink. The major source of water for central Europe their decline is certain to have environmental and economic impacts that will only be successfully address through Europe wide strategies – the alternative is increasing tension between countries and the loss of environment, resources and wealth.

On a lighter note, this report is a good excuse for me to put on the blog these pictures of a coal barge travelling through the Vienna stretch of the Danube.

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Filed under Austrian Politics, Green, International Politics & Global Economics, Politics, Transport, Water

Calm down before you choke on the dust and car fumes


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.

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Filed under Austrian Politics, City Centre, Environment, Green, Politics, Transport, Vienna Life

Nuclear & Low Carbon debates – UK, Austria, EU


A few of the articles I’ve found of interest recently:

http://www.monbiot.com/2011/07/04/corporate-power-no-thanks/

http://austrianindependent.com/news/Business/2011-07-06/8324/%D6VP_aims_at_early_nuclear_energy_import_stop

http://www.libdemvoice.org/independent-view-nuclear-subsidies-no-thanks-24657.html

http://www.libdemvoice.org/lib-dem-mps-set-to-rebel-over-backdoor-nuclear-power-subsidy-24625.html

http://www.libdemvoice.org/chris-davies-mep-writes-conservatives-and-climate-change-tuesdays-revealing-vote-in-strasbourg-24634.html

http://www.libdems.org.uk/news_detail.aspx?title=Transport_boost_of_over_%C2%A3150M_to_create_growth_and_cut_carbon&pPK=9130d3c3-79ab-4af5-9aeb-f637cfdbafee

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Filed under Austrian Politics, Climate Change, Energy, Green, Liberal Politics, Politics, Transport, UK Politics

Smoke signal


As a seasoned traveller I have over the years found my journey’s delayed for a variety of reasons, accidents, detours and even a few years back in England leaves on the line and the wrong type of snow. However, Saturday night marked a new first.

There we were at the tram stop in pleasant discourse regarding Austria Wien’s 5:0 home win and how other results that evening had gone our way. But our conversation trailed off, as did the discussions of others around us awaiting the arrival of the tram. One by one we all turned to look and then turned back to each other. Was that right? Was it our collective imaginations?  No there was murmured agreement all around; there really was a plumb of smoke issuing up from the tramline some 15 metres from where we stood.

Someone had immediately made a call on their mobile phone and within three minutes fire vehicles and a police car were on the scene. At approximately the same moment our tram arrived and in the time honoured manner of public transport users we all piled on board to grab a seat. This rush for a seat seemed a little foolish as the driver announced an unsurprising delay and passengers’ starting drifting back outside to watch the fire service at work.

In no time at all the question of the smoking tramline had been sufficiently resolved for the police to allow our tram to proceed. As we left the emergency services to investigate the cause of the smoke, our conversation returned to the subject of football and the crunch game next Wednesday against Sturm Graz. However, the discussion was punctuated by the phrase ‘l don’t believe it’ as members of our party turned to look out of the window and back at the scene of the recent excitement.

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Filed under The odd thought or observation, Transport, Vienna Life

Even more English to be heard in Vienna


From Easter I will now be able to listen to announcements on Viennese public transport in English as well as German. Does this mean I should take off the headphones?

http://www.austriantimes.at/news/General_News/2011-02-16/30638/English_announcements_planned_for_Vienna_public_transport

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Filed under Transport, Vienna Life