Last week I came across an article in my daily search that piqued my interest. Kind of a short ho-hum piece about Vienna extending it's subway and tram network in the International Railway Journal. This was the line that caught me.
Under the plans, which were announced by the city's deputy mayor Mrs Renate Brauner on September 7, three extensions totalling 5.2km will be built linking new developments at the Nordbahnhof and Nordwestbahnhof sites to interchanges with the S-Bahn and U-Bahn networks.When I dug a little deeper, I noticed that they were doing even more expanding in addition to something that we have been complaining about lately here in the US. Building fixed guideway transit to stoke development in the city.
I've discussed this before on the blog with references to Salt Lake City and Freiburg, but the Salt Lake example is much different than Europe due to higher densities and strict growth controls which have left open fields proximate to European downtowns with heavy development prospects. We don't see that as much here in the United States with more sprawling auto-oriented development patterns.
The only US comparison that comes to mind is Portland with the South Waterfront which has had its own controversies, but the comparison is still apt. The wholesale redevelopment of vacant or very underutilized property unlocked by transit investment.
But Vienna has a stout subway and tram network so it's a bit different in that they are connecting into lines with existing heavy ridership for their subways and tramways which are the focus of development change. Subway extensions they've already built are currently changing open fields while they build new lines to alleviate pressure on the existing system (See U5 Below).
Here are the plans for expansion. The orange are tram extensions and the colors purple and blue are U-Bahn in the expansion map below. I'm going to talk about the two nothernmost orange lines in a future post, but today we'll talk about Seestadt or Maritime City.
The Line 2 Seestadt U-Bahn Station opened in October 2013 on an old airport site in the Aspern area after almost 20 years of planning and construction. It's a a perfect example of building transit to an area ready for new development. It's the furthest right on the overall plan above. Luckily google can take us through a visual history with aerial photography.
Seestadt 2003 - Home to an Opel Auto Plant
Seestadt 2010 - Starting to Build U2 Extension
Seestadt 2014 - Housing Coming to U2 Line
Seestadt Future Tram Extension and Existing U-Bahn
Here's 2012 From a More Aerial View (via Google)
Here's a 2014 Construction Image
Here's a current image from the developed part.
As the crow flies, this development in Aspern is only 6 miles outside of downtown. The subway extension to this area has been in the planning works since 1994 together with the development according to the city's planning page (translated). The extension of line U2 has been under construction since 2002 and expanding slowly outward (translated). It's taken 11 years and now traverses over 13km (7+ miles).
The development plans are for 20,000 housing units and 20,000 jobs on ~600 acres. Assuming a 2 person per unit average over the whole development, that's 100 ppl/acre (workers+residents). The only problem I have from the map plan above i that it seems like instead of an extension of the surrounding neighborhoods, it feels cut off from its surroundings.
What's interesting to me about this project is the long tail, but also the fact that we aren't doing this type of thing all over the United States with the exception of a few western cities. We have trouble building transit, let alone coordinating long term development policy. Right now places like Raleigh have to fight off the state government which continues to try and kill projects.
I didn't have time to go down the rabbit hole to see how much affordable housing was on site or whether there were massive subsidies, but we know that some folks in the US see the development of massive roads the same way Vienna see's transit. You might argue that we need better transit to start with but we also keep arguing about it while the roads get built and the countryside sprawls. In fact Tori Gattis of Houston was making comments about the Grand Parkway being able to open up enough land for Houston's sprawl-tacular growth. Hurl...
As far as the Grand Parkway being the last ring we’ll need for a few decades, remember that the area of a circle is pi * r^2. As that radius increases, each additional mile adds a *lot* more land area. The Grand Parkway will be 170 miles long – almost here to San Antonio! Assume development 5 miles on either side of it, 170 x (5+5) = 1,700 sq. miles, at 3,000 people per mile is 5.1 *million* people being accommodated out there, which is almost a doubling of what we have now in the metro (6.5 million) and definitely a few decades of our growth
Does anyone....seriously....anyone.... think that is sustainable at all?? I'd rather have Vienna's model than Houston's outside the beltway.
We'll cover more on the expansion of tramways in Vienna in another post soon.
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