Vienna, Austria: Increasing Quality of Life and More Sustainable Transport

Quality of life in the City of Vienna, Austria is consistently ranked among the top cities worldwide by Mercer, Monocle, and just recently the Economist magazine.  One reason for Vienna’s high quality of life may be related to its transport policies that prioritize public transport, walking, and bicycling—and thus help reduce noise and air pollution from cars, fatalities and severe injuries from motor vehicle collisions, traffic congestion, and free up public space for activities other than parking or moving cars.  In a recent study, published in Transport Reviews, we compared trends in transport sustainability and transport policies in five European cities: Berlin, Hamburg, and Munich in Germany, Zurich in Switzerland, and Vienna in Austria.DSC01827.JPGEven though all cities have significantly reduced the car share of trips over the past 25 years, Vienna has been the most successful.  The key to 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. The mix of policies implemented in each city has been somewhat different. The German cities have done far more to promote cycling, while Zurich and Vienna offer more public transport service per capita at lower fares. All five of the cities have implemented roughly the same policies to promote walking, foster compact mixed-use development, and discourage car use. Of the car-restrictive policies, parking management has been by far the most important. The five case study cities—and Vienna’s case in particular—demonstrate that it is possible to reduce car dependence even in affluent societies with high levels of car ownership and high expectations for quality of travel.

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