This is a guest post from Taka-ite
A couple of months ago Matt wrote of the extraordinary public transport system of Vienna. What Vienna has been able to achieve, and is continuing to achieve is so remarkable that, in my view, it deserves another look.
While I have been lucky enough to experience the unique bus way of Curitiba, the smooth rubber wheeled trains of Santiago, and the bustling subways of Sao Paulo , Rio and London I have to admit that I have not been to Vienna. I first encountered talk of their transport system when we hosted a 16 year old home stay student. It seemed somewhat unusual that she spoke fondly of Vienna’s public transport as that is not the sort of thing important to most her age. Over the last six years we have hosted two couples from Vienna and they spoke with the same fondness of a system that it seems almost the entire city is so proud of. Earlier in the year our home stay student returned and she was just as animated about a system that provides all of her transport needs save when she travels out of Vienna.
What makes public transport in Vienna so outstanding? The network is great, but I don’t want to talk of that here because it is the pricing scheme that appears to make it the outstanding success that it is. More of that later.
Vienna is not dissimilar in size to Auckland.
- Population of Vienna 1.867 million
- Population of Auckland 1.415 million
Public transport ridership could not be more different
- Vienna has ridership of 954 million trips per year
- Auckland has ridership of 92 million trips per year
- Vienna’s current mode share is that only 27% of all trips are by car (the goal is that the number of private vehicle trips to be less than 20% of total trip by 2025)
- Auckland’s mode share is that about 50% of all trips to the city area are by car
- Vienna $NZ 85,263
- Auckland $NZ 61,924
Growth in PT Trips
- Last year ridership in Auckland grew by about 4 million trips
- Last year ridership in Vienna grew by about 7 million trips off a huge base
- Vienna 701,657
- Auckland 906,440 (2016)
Mercer’s Most Liveable City
- For nine consecutive years Vienna has been rated the world’s most liveable city
- Auckland 3rd
Ownership of the Vienna yearly PT pass at 730,000 has surpassed the ownership of private vehicles.
In Vienna 92% of all trips are made using annual passes. (see the types of passes available below).
I have lived on and off in Auckland for the last thirty years. A constant during that period has been increasing traffic congestion while the creation of new roads has also been a constant.
Trying to build our way out of congestion by adding new roads has not worked. Here I discuss the approach of Vienna because it provides such a contrast to Auckland in the movement of its inhabitants, yet one that has been stunningly successful.
Vienna pricing schedule
A large part of the success of Vienna’s system has been the passes of different descriptions. As mentioned above 92% of trips are made using these passes and the cheap price is considered a huge part of this.
|Single ticket||€ 2.40||Valid for one journey within one zone.|
|Half price ticket for children and dogs||€ 1.20||Valid for one journey within one zone.|
|Senior citizens’ ticket||€ 1.50||Valid for one journey for senior citizens over the age of 62.|
|Valid for unlimited travel for one adult within Vienna. Valid 24, 48 or 72 hours from the time of validation.|
|Vienna City Card|
|Valid for unlimited travel for one adult and one child under 15 years within Vienna for 24, 48 or 72 hours, plus discounts or benefits at museums, sights, theatres, concerts, shops, restaurants and cafés.|
|8-day ticket||€ 40.80||Each strip on this ticket is valid for unlimited travel in Vienna for one person on the day of validation until 1:00am of the following day.|
|Weekly travel pass||€ 17.10||Valid for unlimited travel in Vienna within the specified calendar week (Mon-Sun). This is not a 7-day ticket!|
|Monthly travel pass||€ 51||Valid for unlimited travel in Vienna within the specified calendar month.|
|Annual travel pass||€ 365||Valid for unlimited travel in Vienna within 12 calendar months. A passport picture is required, and the ticket must be ordered from the Vienna Transport head office.|
How Did Vienna Get to Where It Is?
I have reproduced part of an abstract that outlines some of the progression of the public transport system in Vienna. It has been a long time arriving at where it is.
For me, one of the major takeaways from the Vienna experience is what happened when they slashed the annual pass price in 2012. The significant decrease in the price did not majorly affect farebox recovery.
The Politics of Sustainable Transport in Vienna by Ralph Buehler, John Pucher, Alan Altshuler
Vienna, Austria reduced the car share of trips by a third between 1993 and 2014: from 40% to 27%. The key to Vienna’s success has been a coordinated package of mutually reinforcing transport and land-use policies that have made car use slower, less convenient, and more costly, while increasing the safety, convenience, and feasibility of walking, cycling, and public transport. During 32 in-person interviews in Vienna in May 2015, a wide range of 45 politicians, bureaucrats, transport planners, and academics almost unanimously identified the expansion of the metro (U-Bahn) network and parking management as the two most important policies accounting for the dramatic reduction in car mode share since 1993.
The implementation of sustainable transport policies in Vienna has been a long-term, multi-staged process requiring compromises, political deals, trial and error, and coalition building among political parties and groups of stakeholders. The continuity of Social Democratic governments in Vienna since 1945 has served as a crucial political basis for these policies. The Greens, however, have played a key role since becoming part of the ruling coalition government in 2010. Transport policy has been the central focus of the Greens, who control the transport ministry. The progressive political environment in Vienna has been essential to its increasingly sustainable transport system. Several other cities in Western Europe
Vienna has had a policy of charging low transit fares for many years, but these have recently been reduced further, making them even less expensive relative to most other major European cities. In 2012, Vienna reduced its price for an annual ticket for unlimited travel within the city boundaries from €449 to €365. Maria Vassilakou, the vice-mayor for transport (Green Party), was the principal advocate of the inexpensive annual ticket and initially proposed an even cheaper €100 annual ticket before having to compromise on €365 with the Social Democrats as part of their coalition negotiations in 2010. The renewed coalition negotiations after the 2015 elections also included an explicit agreement on continuing the €365 annual ticket. Since 2012, Vienna’s seniors have been able to purchase an annual ticket for €224. School students pay €60 per year, and university students €75 per semester (5 months). As a result of these large discounts, such passes of various kinds account for 92% of passenger trips, compared to only 6% with single trip tickets. The Vienna mode share of public transport rose three percentage points (36% to 39%) from 2011 to 2013, five times the annual rate of increase during the previous decade (2001-2011). In our May 2015 interview with Vassilakou, she emphasized that this jump in public transport use was due to the introduction of the €365 annual ticket. There was some opposition to these fare cuts, on fiscal grounds, from managers of the city’s public transport system until the city government pledged to cover any lost revenues. In fact, ridership grew so much that total fare revenue increased. But operating cost increased as well because of the additional services necessary to accommodate the increasing demand. As a result, the percentage of operating costs covered by fares fell from 60% in 2011 to 55% in 2015.
Learnings for Auckland
The inhabitants of Vienna seem to have a love of their public transport system as evidenced at “Vienna in Figures.”
The hallmark of the Vienna transport system is that, first and foremost, it seems to be designed to primarily act in the purpose for which it was intended; that is to move the maximum number of people that it can by public transport.
I have been critical of some proposals for Auckland where people say, let our kids travel for free. The wider approach that Vienna has taken of cheap fares for everyone has resulted in ridership figures that most of us cannot comprehend – ten times the number of annual trips in Auckland.
There have been other very significant benefits of the Vienna transport system the first of which is environmental. The city is on track for a mode share of 20% of trips by car by 2025. Again this is a number that most of us will struggle to comprehend. Remember the target for the inner city of Auckland is 27% by 2045 with little indication that we are on track.
It is evident that with such low car use that this has significant impact on the physical environment of the city in terms of reducing pollution and making a safer environment for those in cars, on bikes or on foot.
The transport operator’s research also shows that there are significantly better financial outcomes for individuals, couples and families who choose to use public transport as their predominant means of transport.
See here for the comprehensive Mobility Plan that Vienna has.
Would This Pricing Model Work in Auckland?
The Vienna model relies on significant government support as does Auckland. There would have to be a will to lift that level of support although Vienna found the increased ridership meant significantly more revenue.
It is quite clear that our current infrastructure could not cope with significant volume increases. It does seem though that AT needs to begin the process of reducing Auckland’s very expensive public transport prices now if it wants to achieve the goals that it has set for itself. The current PT growth rate of around 4% is not even keeping pace with the annual increase in trips by car. In simple terms Auckland is going backwards with increasing congestion, more fuel use and greater greenhouse emissions.
There are downsides to a one zone fare system (and I am not advocating such a system that stretches to Warkworth in the north or Pukekohe in the south) but a pricing system that encourages development along the transport corridors is likely to encourage an efficient PT system while also ensuring that those who are not attracted to growth upwards retain some options.
As I said at the start of this post I have seen a transport system in Auckland that has failed us; that seems to be continuing to fail us; and here is a time proven system that has been an outstanding success.