40 years of metro construction


karlsplatz.jpgVienna Transport is currently celebrating 40 years of construction work for the new metro system. Construction work started on November 3rd, 1969 with the excavations for the station at Karlsplatz (pictured left).

It's something of an ambivalent anniversary. First of all, before the new metro, the old metro had been in service since 1898; in fact two of the "new" metro lines are in fact nothing but converted old metro lines. Second, while there is no doubt that the first two stages of the new metro system brought significant improvements in public transport, the new metro is also responsible for the drastic degradation of the tramway network on the surface.

Third, in recent years hundreds of millions of euros have been spent on extending the metro lines to thinly inhabited suburban areas, causing massive losses to the transport authority, while offering next to no advantages to most passengers. Future plans for the extension of the network strongly suggest that this problematic situation will be further aggravated.

In fact, due to the success of the new metro in its early stages, some politicians now view it as the only feasible way of public transport, totally forgetting about more efficient and cheaper alternatives. Whereas numerous plans for the extension of the tramway network have been shelved since the mid-1990s, the ten- to fifteen-fold amount of money is instead spent on metro projects that are massively oversized for the number of passengers that use them.


I think, Horst, that with your high degree of interest and vast knowledge on this subject (one need only see your "Vienna Metro" site on your website to confirm that this is true - also the link for your TV interview on this subject, March 4, 2006, still works), that you should definitely be one of the persons making the decisions about these matters. But I don't know how this works in Vienna; is there a planning board of some type, and is one elected or appointed?

btw: Contrary to what you said, you look very nice in the TV interview. :-)

Jann, you probably know what happened to the Los Angeles tramway system in the 1930s. So, knowing that the city council's secretary for transport usually comes from the car lobby might tell you, how it works in Vienna.

By the way, I tried to google LA trams and only found hints that the tram is having a comeback even there. It seems that only Viennese transport planning mentally persists in the 1970s.

One of the things I like about this blog is that I learn so much. And, dieter, I actually know very little about Los Angeles or about trams, which in the US are usually called streetcars, trolleys, or trolley cars - well, that's what they were called when they existed.(Most of my life has been spent in the eastern part of the US, including 40 years in Buffalo, NY, and a few years as a child in the area of Pittsburgh, PA.) I did not know, until inspired by your comment to do some googling, that, "100 years ago Los Angeles had the best and most extensive light rail in the world." I found that here:


I fail to see what the car lobby has to do with what Horst is saying.

I do know something about public transportation in Buffalo. Buffalo always always had a bus system, which was very good for going up or down Main Street, and a couple of the other north/south routes, i.e., Delaware and Elmwood, were also pretty good, but trying to get anywhere else in Buffalo e.g., crosstown, or the surrounding area could be difficult, time-consuming or impossible. In the late 1970's Buffalo tried to build a light rail rapid transit system which was supposed to go throughout the city and connect with some of the suburban areas.
What did Buffalo end up with? A subway system that does nothing more than go up and down Main Street. Hard to believe, but it's true. Any hope of expanding it has pretty much been abandoned. For more about this see:




The third link shows how ugly this light rail system has made buffalo. By comparison, Vienna's metro system seems like a dream.

@Jann, thanks for digging up the article on LA. In my allusion I was referring to the General Motors story. As to the situation in Vienna. The Austrians have two big "motor clubs", basically lobbies to promote car driver interests. As is to be expected, each lobby is affiliated to one of the traditional ruling parties (conservatives and social democrats). And there is an unhealthy tradition in Vienna that the head of the urban traffic planning is a member of the car lobby that is close to the local governing party. Result: trams with their rails are generally deemed an obstacle to free circulation, and an obsolete form of transport. In my view, Vienna is lucky because the city authority never had the money to finance all the metro plans they have had. This has already saved the "life" of more than one tram line.

Thanks, dieter, for the explanation. Now it makes sense.

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