Public Transportation

October 23, 2007

Generally, transportation in Vienna is excellent. Like Berlin, there is a network of U-Bahn, Strassenbahn (Tram), Bus, and S-Bahn lines. Between these and normal train lines, you can get anywhere in Vienna, and for that matter, anywhere in Austria, easily.

In Washington, DC, we had http://www.wmata.com, which was fairly impressive in its route-planning technology. In Austria, the equivalent is http://www.oebb.at, the website of the Austrian railroad system. It puts the Washington system to shame with its  ability to give directions between any two addresses or cities in the entire country of Austria. Granted, this is a rather small country, but still, that’s an impressive website.

Further boggling my mind is the frequency with which they are able to run subway trains here in Vienna. In New York, 10 minutes waiting for the C train to Manhattan was standard for me. On weekends, a 20-minute wait for a train was not considered out of line.

On weekdays here in Vienna, trains run at 3-4 minute intervals when I am going to and from work. During more “non-rush” times, up until about 11:00 PM, trains run every 5 minutes. Finally, when the U-Bahns are getting ready to close for the night, trains runs every 8 minutes. As I’ve said, my mind is boggled.

It’s true, though, the U-Bahn does shut down. Berlin and New York have Vienna beat in that department. In New York, the subways never close, though, as mentioned previously, you can expect to wait 15-20 minutes for a train running after midnight. In Berlin, the U-Bahn shuts down around 1 AM, at which point the Night Buses start running along exactly the same lines that the U-Bahn did. The difference for the actual user, then, is none.

In Vienna it’s a bit trickier. After the U-Bahn shuts down, there are Night Buses, but their routes are much more limited than those of Berlin. So far my two experiences with the Night bus have involved long walks to a sort of hub where many of the buses run. After you get the hang of it, it’s not that bad.  The hang can be hard to get, however, as I learned the first time I tried to take the night bus. After walking in the wrong direction for 45 minutes, I realized my mistake and was able to make it home in just under two hours. Perhaps it is unfair to blame the city for the fact that I was unable to determine the direction of my apartment, but it wouldn’t have happened in Berlin.

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