Sunday, October 14, 2007

Vienna's Ringstrasse

In addition to the ring system in Budapest, Vienna has the Ringstrasse. Interestingly enough, there isn’t a single line that completes the loop however many lines come into town and turn around next to the loop leaving the downtown walking city to be accessed only by the Metro system. There are several lines which use the Ringstrasse but all lines link to specific metro stations on the Ringstrasse with the Strassenbahn (Tram) filling in the accessibility gaps between Metro stations and regional rail. The central city is completely walkable, mostly cobbled and in some instances closed off to cars.


What is the history of this tram ring that allows the circulation of this signature street? Initially the ring was the city fortifications. However Franz Joseph, the King of the Austrio-Hungarian Empire decided that it wasn’t needed anymore and wanted to create a signature street. And create a meaningful place he did. The street is very wide and accommodates automobiles, streetcars, as well as a wide tree lined pedestrian and bike space.

The most interesting piece related to transit is not really the loop itself, although its an important part of both Vienna and Budapest transport, but rather the multimodal connections that are made at certain nodes along the Ringstrasse. At one node, there are four tram stops on the surface, a tram turnaround just beneath the surface and a connection to the M2 Metro which follows its own ring around half of the downtown. In the photos below you can kind of see how this works.






In another node, there are loops for trams, buses and the Metro connected by tunnels which allow citizens to not cross the Ringstrasse on the surface. Underneath the surface its like a mini-mall with eateries and the infamous Tabak shops where you can buy cigarettes and your metro pass.

So why do these systems work? Well first off they are the circulators for all modal connections with in the central city. Their operation is dependent on the interface of faster Metro lines and slower tram and bus connections (the photo below is a tram and bus stop). In Vienna specifically the buses sometimes are even using the tram right of way and stops of the trams. They also all connect to the intercity trains on the edges of town allowing anyone living in town to get around effortlessly without a car.


This means that its incredible affordable to live in the old parts of Vienna. I was told that inside the ring is expensive, but just outside of the ring you can get a nice flat for $600 per month. I will warn folks that there are lots of good restaurants there so food could get expensive.

And if you're worried about the environment, there are people there to remind you.


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