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How Vienna plans to expand its tram and park & ride systems for commuters

In efforts to give commuters and travellers more flexibility, Austria's capital is expanding its transport services. Check out what is coming in the future.

a tram in the city center of Vienna, public transport Austria
One of the famous Viennese trams will travel to Lower Austria, crossing city limites (Photo by Árpád Czapp on Unsplash)

A new tram between Vienna and Lower Austria is on its way, Vienna’s Mayor Michael Ludwig (SPÖ) and governor Johanna Mikl-Leitner (ÖVP) announced on Friday.

From 2025, tram line 72 will run from Simmering district to Schwechat, the city where Vienna’s International Airport is located. However, the line will end a few kilometres away by Europaplatz. 

READ ALSO: The best commuter towns if you work in Vienna

The Vienna-Schwechat-Bim is expected to transport around 4,500 passengers daily, Ludwig said. The line is part of a larger plan to give more climate-friendly transport possibilities for people coming to the Austrian capital, including visitors and the more than 300,000 daily commuters, many from Lower Austria.

According to City Councilor Ulli Sima, the total distance of the line will be 6.4 kilometres. Some 2.75 kilometres will be newly built, 1.75 kilometres of which in Lower Austria.

The SPÖ mayor also announced that the Park & Ride system will be expanded. Drivers can leave their vehicles by the car parks within city limits for a very low price and then hop on Vienna’s public transport system. 

By 2024, 3,000 car parking spaces will be added, the mayor said.

This will significantly affect car users visiting Vienna since the capital’s parking system has changed. From March 1st, almost the entire city is a “short-term” zone, meaning parking is only possible in public streets with a resident’s parking permit or a ticket for two-hour parking.

READ ALSO: Five underrated towns you can visit in a day from Vienna

Vienna’s Park and Ride garages are among the best alternatives for travellers arriving by car, costing around € 3.60 per day and close to underground line connections. 

“With this package of measures, we are taking the right step towards promoting climate-friendly mobility in the eastern region”, Ludwig said.

Planning is “largely completed”, the mayor said. The necessary investments will be around € 29 million, with negotiations with the federal government still taking place. 

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TRAIN TRAVEL

EXPLAINED: How to not be ‘bumped’ from an overcrowded Austrian train

Austrian trains have been overly crowded recently, with some people who had valid tickets having to be removed for "safety reasons". Here's how to make sure you get to your destination.

EXPLAINED: How to not be 'bumped' from an overcrowded Austrian train

Train travel is a safe and relatively comfortable way to get around Austria, but there is still much to do to make these journeys better for travellers, especially for commuters.

In Austria, a combination of high fuel prices, the adoption of the subsidised Klimaticket, and Vienna’s new short-term parking system, combined with other factors including a green surge and nice weather, has led to an increase in the search for train travel.

The operator ÖBB expects an even higher surge in the next few days, as warm weather meets holidays in Austria. This has led to several journeys being overcrowded, with people travelling standing up or being removed from trains when they reach capacity and the number of people compromises safety.

READ ALSO: Half-price Europe train tickets on offer in Interrail flash sale

“Safety is the top priority. If the train is too full to be guided safely, passengers must be asked to get off. If they don’t do it voluntarily, we have no choice but to get the police. This happens very rarely,” Bernhard Rieder from ÖBB told broadcaster ORF during an Ö1 interview.

Why are trains overcrowded?

There are several reasons for the surge in train travel, but they boil down to two things: rising costs for other means of transportation and environmental worries.

With galloping inflation, Austrians have seen prices of fuel climbing, and as the war in Ukraine continues, there is no likelihood of lower petrol prices any time soon.

At the same time, since March, Vienna (the destination for many domestic tourists and commuters) has instituted a new short-term parking system, basically removing free parking in the streets of the capital.

Driving has become more expensive when everything else seems to be costly, and many Austrians turn to train travel. Particularly for those who are holders of the Klimaticket, a yearly subsidised card that allows for unlimited travel for just over €1,000 – early buyers could get a hold of the ticket for under €900.

READ ALSO: Nine German expressions that perfectly sum up spring in Austria

The ticket allows travellers to “hop on and hop off” as they wish, making occupancy more unpredictable. However, it is possible to reserve seats even if you have them, and there are low-budget bundles for commuters.

The Klimaticket was created in an effort with the Environmental Ministry, looking to increase the use of greener transport alternatives in Austria.

The environmental concern is also one of the reasons why train travel is on the rise globally – travelling by train is also more convenient in many cases, with comfortable seats, free wifi, a dining area and the fact that you can start and end your journey in central stations instead of far-away airports.

READ ALSO: OPINION: Trains are in fashion so why is rail travel across Europe still so difficult?

Why won’t ÖBB only sell as many tickets as there are train seats?

A reasonable question, but that is not possible with the way train journeys operate in Austria – and in most countries.

Some tickets are “open” and flexible, meaning that people can board any train from a specific time. These are particularly useful for commuters who might be late leaving work, for example.

Additionally, holders of the Klimaticket and other regional yearly offers don’t need to buy tickets. They only need to show their Klimaticket card with an ID once checked.

READ ALSO: Austria’s nationwide public transport ‘climate ticket’ now available

What is ÖBB doing to avoid overcrowding?

After the several incidents of overcrowding when people even had to leave their trains despite having valid tickets, ÖBB announced it would bring additional trains for the peak season around the holidays (May 26th, June 5th and 6th and June 16th), increasing the number of seats by “thousands”, according to a press statement.

What can I do to guarantee my journey?

Despite the increase in offer, the operator still warns that “on certain trains, demand can still exceed capacity”.

The best way to try and guarantee your journey, according to ÖBB, is by reserving a seat.

READ ALSO: One day in Vienna: How to spend 24 hours in the Austrian capital

“A seat reservation is the best way to use the most popular train connections. Starting at €3, you can reserve a seat in ÖBB trains in Austria”.

Reservations are available online at tickets.oebb.at the ÖBB app, at the ÖBB ticket counter, and at the ÖBB customer service at 05-1717.

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