Austria's $3.50 Go-Anywhere Klimaticket Aims To Fight Climate Change - Cnn

Austria's $3.50 Go-Anywhere Klimaticket Aims To Fight Climate Change - Cnn

The $3.50 go-anywhere ticket to fight climate change

Austria is launching a new transport pass, Klimaticket. It gives passengers unlimited rides on trains, buses, trams and metro lines that costs about $3.50 (3 euro) a day.

10/26/2021 7:31:00 PM

Austria's new Klimaticket, or climate ticket -- offering seamless travel across all modes of public transport for just $3.50 a day -- is intended to galvanize the Alpine nation's fight against climate change.

Austria is launching a new transport pass, Klimaticket. It gives passengers unlimited rides on trains, buses, trams and metro lines that costs about $3.50 (3 euro) a day.

aims to reduce private car use from 70% of total annual kilometers traveled to 54% by 2040, at the same time increasing public transport's share from 27% to 40% and doubling active travel (walking and cycling) from 3% to 6% of the total.A passenger on an electric train requires just 55% of the energy used by a battery electric car for the same journey, according to the master plan, meaning big carbon emission cuts can be made with a relatively small percentage shift to more sustainable modes of travel.

Of course, it hasn't exactly been a smooth journey to get to this point. Klimaticket is the result of 18 months of often-heated negotiations between federal and regional governments, transport organizations and providers.Even the €3 per day cost is a compromise -- the Green Party's manifesto pledge at the last federal elections was to slash travel costs to just €1 a day within any region and €2 across any two regions.

Two-year battleVienna's U-Bahn network is covered by the ticket.Andrew Michael/Education Images/Universal Images Group/Getty Images"Klimaticket is an impressive political achievement'" says Keith Barrow, editor of UK magazine Today's Railways Europe, pointing to remarkable levels of cooperation among Austrian provinces and their regional transport authorities.

"The provinces have different politics, different geographies and different priorities. Then there are municipalities and numerous public transport operators -- 40 in the Vienna region alone. It is remarkable that all these different parties have managed to find common ground on this issue."

They very nearly didn't.How Trans Europe Express trains could be making a comebackThe past two years saw Intense debate and criticism, especially from more rural regions where public transport density and usage is at its lowest. Opposition parties have welcomed the introduction of the ticket but said it was only a first step toward meeting climate goals.

Johannes Margreiter, transport spokesman for the liberal Neos party, said:"Price isn't the reason why people do not switch to public transport. In many places, the problem is the lack of availability because of poor or absent connections."

The Vienna region, home to 50% of the country's population and 60% of its public transport journeys (around 300,000 peopleon a normal weekday) was also late to sign up to the scheme, raising fears that the new ticket would be compromised from the outset.

Blueprint for change?Cross-country trains are also covered.Matthias Balk/picture alliance/dpa/Getty ImagesHowever, the last-minute deal confirmed Klimaticket's status as a truly national travel pass.Its coverage stretches from Bregenz on the shore of Lake Constance in the west to the outskirts of the Slovakian capital Bratislava in the east.

Whatever the reservations, a nationwide ticket removes one of the biggest barriers to using public transport -- trying to figure out which tickets are needed for which journeys. That's particularly the case for foreign visitors.The framing of the ticket as an environmental initiative has also been important.

It's hoped it will compel Austrians to think about the environmental impact of how they travel, while making the low-carbon option more accessible and attractive.Related contentHow Japan's Shinkansen bullet trains changed the world of rail travel

But, if successful, does Klimaticket have the potential to become a blueprint for other countries looking to drastically cut transport emissions?Austria has perhaps succeeded because it's a relatively small country with a well-funded, cohesive and popular public transport system already in place. Others without this could struggle to emulate its achievement.

"There are two things you need before you can launch into an initiative like this -- network density and service frequency," says railway magazine editor Barrow."Austria has invested heavily in building capacity on its main rail corridors so it can accommodate more fast inter-city services as well as regular-interval regional services, frequent S-Bahn networks in city regions and increasing volumes of freight.

"It has the infrastructure it needs to accommodate more passengers, or it is in the process of constructing it."Who's next?Germany's transport network could be a candidate for a similar scheme.CHRISTOF STACHE/AFP via Getty ImagesCould similar initiatives happen elsewhere?

Barrow says the Netherlands could be a contender, benefiting from an already interlinked public transport network that operates with high frequency. The densely populated country faces a pressing need to find solutions to transport challenges.Germany is also in the frame, he adds.

"I think there is an appetite for something like Klimaticket in Germany. The Greens' success in the recent federal election might spur them to emulate their counterparts in Austria and push for a national annual public transport pass."The problem in Germany, say Barrow, is state-level variations in commitment to public transport. Bavaria, the south, is relatively pro-road whereas neighboring Baden-Württemberg has been actively improving public transport for a long time.

And will it succeed in Austria?Related contentThe country certainly has the requisite core rail network and urban transport systems around major cities such as Vienna and Graz. These have benefited from a policy of continuous development, broadly supported across the political spectrum.

At the periphery of the system the story is less positive.Decades of rural rail closures have cut many smaller towns off from the national network -- but on secondary lines that remain, there now seems to be more willingness to improve infrastructure, enhance timetables and replace polluting diesel trains with electric, battery or hydrogen trains.

Klimaticket could boost improvement prospects still further, especially when coupled with targeted investment in feeder bus routes and active mobility. Green campaigners have called for the offer to be expanded to include cycle hire and e-scooter rental, providing a wider range of seamless travel options.

Klimaticket is just one plank of Austria's plan to meet its carbon reduction targets, but if it delivers positive results quickly, as its supporters believe it will, pressure could grow to develop similar products in other countries around the world that make mobility without a car easier and more cost effective.

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