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The “Viennese Approach” – More than an annual pass

In the course of the VBBimPuls 2019, Friedemann Brockmeyer reported on the experience gained by civity during the introduction of the €365 ticket in Vienna. This guest article for the VBB magazine can be found below. You can download the entire magazine, with other exciting contents, free of charge below.

Taken as a whole, the “Viennese Approach” is so much more than just the €365 annual pass that is so often referred to in public discourse. Vienna stands for outstanding service and is also a leader when it comes to integrating mobility for public use.

However, Vienna is also proof that a turnaround in fare systems does not necessarily mean a turnaround in transport. In order to understand Vienna’s success, we need to take a closer look at the three levels of the urban mobility ecosystem in Vienna:

  • urban structure,
  • transport infrastructure and
  • transport policy,

which together ultimately determine the mobility behaviour of the Viennese. All levels are mutually dependent and they all have an extraordinary affinity for public transport in Vienna!

A sustainable turnaround in transport calls for systematic regulation of private inner-city car use. Above all, the fact that public transport in Vienna has been an absolute priority for the Viennese, for politicians and thus also for the public budget since the 1970s, i.e. when construction on the underground railway began (about 70 years after Berlin), is decisive for its success.

The real break-through for public transport in Vienna began about a decade before the introduction of the €365 annual pass.
Since the introduction of this annual pass, Viennese public transport has in fact only managed to maintain its market share.
German cities can learn three things from Vienna.

  • Firstly, that a high population density promotes the use of public transport and makes it much easier and cheaper to provide this public transport.
  • Secondly, that continuous investment in an excellent service will pay off and be accepted by citizens.
  • Thirdly, that a sustainable turnaround in transport requires systematic regulation of private inner-city car use?.

From a transport policy perspective, cities like Berlin, i.e. cities with dynamic growth, should focus on increasing urban density and on continuously expanding public transport services in areas that are already dense and in areas where density has yet to be increased. This means making public transport a clear priority, especially in the event of any space conflicts between public transport and motorised individual transport. “Half-hearted bus lanes”, i.e. which are only there because there is enough space anyway or which are also used as a spare cycle path, are not the way forward.

Parking space policy helps to control traffic and makes a significant contribution to financing the transport infrastructure.
In Berlin, we need a clear prioritisation of public transport in road space and private car use must be regulated, for example, through parking space management based on the Viennese model. Vienna’s parking policy differs significantly from Berlin’s. It is an essential lever of the "Viennese Approach", because it controls traffic, contributes significantly to the financing of the transport infrastructure and also sets a clear transport policy signal. As part of the fare adjustment that took place in 2012, parking space management was once again stepped up. To this day, new urban districts are regularly included in the parking space management zone, fees are increased and control pressure is being further increased. The revenues generated in this way exceed those of Berlin many times over and go a long way towards financing an attractive public transport system.

Alternative financing instruments for public transport are urgently needed. Due to increasing expenditure driven by a shortage of personnel and the switch to alternative drive systems combined with the loss of any political scope to increase fares, alternative financing instruments for public transport are urgently needed. In addition to parking space management, Vienna also uses the so-called "employer’s levy” to help finance public transport. This is also fair, since the cost of the system as a whole is determined by the peak capacity required for the morning peak. The business sector in Vienna is also willing to pay since public transport is seen as an advantage for the city as a location for business.

The efficiency and development density of public transport is one of the main reasons why Vienna is regularly awarded the title of the "most liveable city in the world".