Learning from the Success of the Vienna, Austria LRT Network by Guest Blogger Kevin Thomason

In a follow-up to my e-mail earlier this summer on the amazing Strasbourg, France LRT system I would like to share some recent experience with the Vienna, Austria LRT network. With 32 different LRT and Tram lines spanning this historic city and moving tens of thousands of people each day there is a lot that we can learn from the success of this world-class city.

Vienna’s public transit success has included not only fast, efficient LRT’s but also an extensive bicycling lane/trail network, easy connectivity to greenspace, and closing some streets to automobile traffic to create pedestrian malls, great public squares, and performance space that allows shoppes and cafes to thrive. Similar to Strasbourg some of their LRT lines run on a grass surface, many routes have incorporated tree lined rights of way, and most have distinct, creative station areas that are extremely welcoming and easy to navigate.

As our LRT progresses in its planning there are a number of details in the Vienna system that are worth learning from to ensure that we get things right too:

1) Buttons to Open Only the Required Doors – One of the first things a rider notices is that to keep the temperature inside the train comfortable (cool in summer, warm in winter) you have to push an orange button (with green LEDs) to open the door of the train to get on or off – thus every door on the train isn’t opening and closing at every stop and letting out all the cool air into the hot summer days when no one is getting on or off at that doorway. It is simple but brilliant as in other cities such as Istanbul the air conditioning could never keep up every time every LRT door opened and let in so much hot, summer air at each station even when no one was entering or exiting the train.

We need individual door control buttons to ensure that our LRT is always comfortable inside – particularly during our long, cold winters.

2) Ticketing System – the Vienna system operates on an honour ticket system much like our GO Transit Trains that is fast and efficient. There are no turnstiles or fences limiting access or creating bottlenecks on the train platforms. You simply purchase and/or stamp your ticket in a machine on the platform or even on the train. You can board at any door and enforcement officers check occasionally to ensure everyone has a valid ticket – issuing to fines to riders without a valid ticket, stamp or pass.

It is a simply system that avoids so much of the congestion and issues seen on other transit systems where everyone has to cue up at the driver’s door (like our current GRT buses), or a specific station gate to get into and onto the transit system.

We need to plan carefully and ensure that our Waterloo Region LRT has a simple, efficient, and easy to use ticketing system in order to ensure the highest possible ridership and to avoid the chaos of Athens and other LRT systems whose turnstiles and gates create considerable congestion and delays where even one person fumbling for correct change can hold up dozens of others.

3) Signage – With 32 LRT routes Vienna has had to ensure extremely clear signage, route maps and network information to ensure the high success of their transit system. Even more challenging has been for them to do it in a manner that is clear to the millions of non-German speaking tourists that visit the city every year. They have done an excellent job of the making the system easy to understand and navigate. We can learn a lot from their signage and communications.

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