Journals from Vienna 2008
2008-09-23 Die Stadt gehört Dir
The city belongs to you is the motto of the Wiener Linien, the public transportation system here in Vienna--quite likely one of my favorite things about the city. Not only is it relatively inexpensive " yes, economics is always still on the brain " but so extraordinarily simple to use. The Wiener Linien make owning a car in Vienna a choice, though to be honest, it is a choice many are still making.
The reason the motto seems to fit so well is that with one of the transportation options, one can always get within a few blocks of one's destination. There are the four options with which one can get from point A to B: Bus, Strassenbahn (Street car, think of the Max in Portland), U-Bahn (Subway), or the Schnellbahn (have relatively few stops to get essential places quickly). On my way to the institute in the first district from the nineteenth district, I have a few options for transportation, but I generally take a streetcar, walk a few blocks, then hop on the U-4, for an approximately 30-minute trip. It is amazing to think that cities in the US function without such a glorious system. Despite the efficient and simple system the Viennese " as most European cities " have created, there are still traffic jams and few parking places. In Los Angeles, for example, there are hundreds of thousands more people living in the city, with few transportation options. America needs to wake up and get with the public transportation program! A one-month card, able to be used for all public transportation within the city of Vienna, costs one only 49,50 EUR (approximately $70). Not only is that a steal in that you can go where you want, when you want, but gas costs approximately $7-8 per gallon here!
Another positive aspect of the public transportation system here in Vienna is that there is not a specific profile of people who use it. All walks of life can be seen on the various transportation mediums offered, from poor to rich, old to young, there seems to be a wide range of citizens using the public transport here. It is my opinion that in America, we tend to give public transportation a negative connotation. Many find buses and such to be unsanitary, for those more unfortunate folks. From what I have seen here thus far, the public transportation is seen as a positive thing. Though I cannot be quoted on this " I believe the school children take public transportation to get to and from school, receiving a Schlerausweis (ID) detailed with which routes the child needs to use daily authorizing the student to ride public transportation free of cost. Even dogs are permitted on the various transportation means, so long as they are restrained by a muzzle and leash.
Interestingly enough, the street cars here drive along with the regular traffic. It is a great concept, but it is also extremely dangerous. For instance, last week my streetcar almost got into a wreck due to some idiot in a flashy car, attempting to fly out in front of us. Streetcars, as one would easily suspect, do not stop on a dime, therefore making it quite dangerous to have them driving along as if they are a regular part of the traffic. However, it is easy to see why it has to be this way in order to have such an advanced system; to give every street car its own track and side streets upon which to drive would mean redoing the entire city layout, which is obviously not a feasible option. The other positive aspect of this system is that it easily allows for the addition of new street cars wherever one may be needed. In a booming city in which many people in all of the 23 districts of the city are using the public transportation on a daily basis, it is certain that the addition of new streetcar routes will, at some point, be a necessity.
Using public transportation also allows one to do something other than focus on driving while in transit from one location to another. Riding the subway to school is a treat, because I can pick up one of the free Heute or –sterreich newspapers, and read on the way to wherever I am going. If I had to drive to school every day, I would be missing out on 20 minutes worth of improving my German every day. Since the kids have starting riding to school every morning, it has only become more interesting; through listening to them, my vocabulary of useful words not learned in the German class has certainly increased.
While such an advanced public transportation system is not feasible everywhere in the world, it is definitely something we Americans could look into in certain cities. I certainly am going to miss using the subway and streetcar on a daily basis when I leave this place.
Side Note " this weekend I went with my host family to their country home for a birthday party; during the drive home on the Autobahn " which in Austria is really just the equivalent to I-5, as the speed limit is about 75 mph " we saw an old, white van engulfed in flames. Luckily, I could tell that the people had made it out of their car alive. On that note, I am going to recommend that everyone be sure to check the oil in your car frequently.