Environmental awareness and energy efficiency, Viennese style: Austria’s capital epitomizes what makes a city livable.
“Back when our kids were small, it was really hard for me to get on the tram with a stroller. Today, parents with young children can easily board the ultra-low floor trams – now that’s what I call progress!” Julia Köhler loves living with her family in Vienna – a city that repeatedly ranks among the world’s most livable urban centers. She and her family regularly use public transportation. Mayor Michael Häupl knows how important the city’s buses, metros and trams are to the inhabitants of Vienna. Summing up the city’s formula for success, he says, “like any successful business launching a new product, we surveyed our customers. The feedback we received was that Vienna’s residents want public transportation that operates reliably and on schedule, and the system should also be attractive and comfortable.” That’s why the city opted, for example, for Siemens’ Ultra Low Floor (ULF) trams, with their extra-wide doors and floor height of just 19 centimeters.
State-of-the-art trams are just one small piece of the quality-of-life mosaic in this metropolis on the Danube. Mayor Häupl sees his city as “a mixture of grand classical traditions and innovative technologies. In addition to being steeped in history and abounding in culture, Vienna is a business and science hub.” For a more detailed picture, just ask the city’s residents. Julia Köhler appreciates “all the green spaces and the vibrant cultural scene. And Vienna is a family-friendly city – a wonderful place to raise children.” Her husband, Dr. Georg Freimüller, who’s an attorney, says that the quality of life in Vienna can also be attributed to the magnificent backdrop of the city’s many historic buildings and its safety and cleanliness. Their children – Carlotta, Max and Elsa – feel that Vienna can hold its own against any city in the world.
It’s no coincidence that the residents of the Austrian capital give their hometown such high marks for quality of life. Under Mayor Häupl, Vienna has taken systematic steps to enhance its livability over the past two decades. One focus has been on infrastructure, where Vienna has been rigorously implementing “intelligent” strategies. And Siemens has provided many of the city’s closely integrated infrastructure solutions: metro trains and their electrification, traffic management systems, power distribution solutions, energy-efficient building technologies and security systems for public squares, metro stations and stadiums.
Vienna’s decision-makers recognized early on that a healthy environment is a prerequisite for ensuring quality of life. Major investments in energy-efficient and environmentally friendly technologies and in public transportation are not inconsistent with a city’s prosperity. Mayor Häupl is convinced that a higher quality of life also fosters economic success. “Today, Vienna generates 48% of Austria’s total tax revenue,” he says. “We have a healthy, prosperous mix of industry, financial and other services, and highly creative businesses.” And it’s this mix that gives the city the flexibility it needs to implement innovative infrastructure solutions and thus further enhance its residents’ quality of life.
What’s being done to enhance the quality of life in Vienna?
Ask the Viennese and you’ll hear lots of praise for their city’s transportation system. The Freimüller-Köhlers take the metro, trams and buses as often as possible, even though they have driver’s licenses and own several cars. “Public transportation in Vienna is fast, convenient, comfortable and cheap,” says Carlotta, a university student. “I only take the car when I have to.” Her mother, Julia, who works at the university, needs the car for her commute but leaves it at home when running errands. “I love the flair of Vienna’s markets and the variety they offer,” she says. “The bus and tram get me there a lot faster than my car. And it’s also cheaper since I don’t have to pay for parking.” Georg Freimüller also prefers to use his annual transport pass when commuting to his office or the courthouse or when running errands. “The city has done a lot for public transportation,” he says. “In recent years, the network has become denser, and the buses, metro and trams run more often.” And as the statistics show, ridership is up: thanks to Vienna’s master transit plan, the use of public transportation within the city limits rose to a worldwide record of 39% in 2012, up from 34% in 2001. Nevertheless, Vienna’s motorists are not at a disadvantage compared to their counterparts in other big cities. While Vienna makes it easy to travel by bicycle, metro, bus and tram, state-of-the-art traffic management technology keeps the city’s car traffic moving smoothly. “We’re not anti-driver, we’re pro-people,” emphasizes Mayor Häupl. “We want the people in our city to live well and not be overwhelmed by the traffic.” In general, however, public transportation always takes precedence over private transportation in Vienna. In expanding its public transportation system, the city is investing heavily in innovative technologies such as real-time intermodal journey planners, smartphone-accessible timetable information and one of the world’s most advanced metro control centers.
We’re keeping the traffic moving
Traffic jams and delays are less frequent in Vienna than in other big cities, and Siemens technology is playing a pivotal role in this success. Both the city’s road traffic management center and its metro control center rely on our intelligent solutions. The metro control center manages both the system’s power supply and its operation, centrally monitoring all trains, platforms and display panels throughout the city. In addition, we’ve been supplying the local public transport operator, Wiener Linien, with trains, electrification systems, interlockings and automatic train control systems for decades.
Living well with less electricity and water
The emphasis on quality of life in Vienna dates back to the ancient Romans, who enjoyed bathing and relaxing in sulfur springs on the site of the present-day Theresienbad. One of the city’s oldest public swimming pools, the Theresienbad is more than a good place for quality leisure time; it’s also a model of energy efficiency and climate protection.
In 2009, we installed state-of-the-art building technology throughout the entire pool complex. As part of an energy performance contracting agreement, we made an upfront investment of €5.2 million, to be financed over 15 years through guaranteed water and energy savings. This arrangement was good for the city since Vienna didn’t have to contribute capital from its limited investment reserves. And the results were impressive: heating costs were cut by 52% and water consumption slashed by 76%. Savings have already exceeded the contractually guaranteed level of nearly €600,000 a year, benefiting not only city coffers but also the environment and thus all of Vienna’s residents. The Theresienbad complex now emits 457 metric tons less CO2 each year than before the energy upgrades. Energy performance contracting has also reduced energy consumption, costs and CO2 emissions at 23 public schools in Vienna.
In Vienna, as in many cities, buildings account for the lion’s share of the energy consumed. As a result, Mayor Michael Häupl has set up a city-wide energy-efficiency program in addition to implementing energy performance contracting solutions for municipal properties. “We’re promoting energy upgrades and thermal insulation – which is one of my pet projects because it means that more money stays in people’s wallets,” he says.
Creative solutions for climate protection
Energy-efficient buildings are a key factor when it comes to making cities more climate-friendly. On this front, there’s still room for improvement in Vienna, according to the European Green City Index, a Siemens-sponsored study that rates the environmental performance of 30 of the continent’s cities in the areas of sustainability, natural resource use and commitment to environmentally sound practices. Although Vienna achieved an admirable fourth place, the study found potential for improvement in the areas of carbon emissions and air quality. Vienna got the message: the city’s first climate protection program reduced annual CO2 emissions by 3.1 million metric tons, and a second program is now aiming to cut another 1.4 million tons a year by 2020. Many of the planned initiatives are technology-driven: climate- neutral building construction, metro and tram cars that recover traction power, and electric buses for public transportation.
Vienna is growing – and its quality of life is increasing
Many Viennese don’t realize it, although they experience it every day: Siemens is creating real quality of life in their city. One prime example is the twelve zero-emission electric buses running on lines 2A and 3A in the city center. In 2013, this very well-received electric fleet earned Wiener Linien accolades that included the State Prize for Mobility, the highest honor awarded by Austria’s Ministry of Transport, Innovation and Technology. Georg Freimüller sees the buses as a crowning achievement for public transportation in Vienna. “The electric buses are quiet, comfortable and fast – and they emit no carbon dioxide,” he says. Thanks to our drive concept, the buses consume some 25% less energy than diesel or natural-gas buses. What’s more, the electric buses run on green electricity. About 75% of the energy consumed in Vienna is produced in the city – at facilities which include one of Europe’s largest biomass power plants. Plans call for increasing the share of renewables in the city’s energy mix to 50% by 2030. And that target entails a new set of challenges, since the amount of energy derived from the wind and the sun naturally fluctuates. Reinhard Brehmer, one of the managing directors at grid operator Wiener Netze, is already working on the solution. “To achieve a balance between supply and demand, we’re introducing smart grids in Vienna,” he says. “A pilot project to test smart electricity meters and their integration into the grid is already underway.” Siemens is supplying the software that manages the consumption data – one more intelligent infrastructure solution for Vienna.
A living laboratory for the city of the future
Wien Energie, Wiener Netze and Siemens are working together on the smart infrastructure of the future at a new community called “aspern Vienna’s Urban Lakeside.” The new district, which is being developed on the site of a former airfield, will be home to 20,000 people and create 20,000 jobs by 2030. Reinhard Brehmer, who’s also the managing director of Aspern Smart City Research, has high hopes for the “living lab.” As he explains, “In aspern, we have a unique opportunity to try out smart new ideas for energy-efficient urban infrastructures on a community-wide level. Working with Siemens, we’ll test new types of links to the low-voltage grid and integrate schools, homes and offices in the power grid.”
Vienna is a growing city that’s optimally equipped for the future. Mayor Michael Häupl sees the aspern community and the research project with Siemens as steps clearly geared toward further enhancing the city’s quality of life by introducing smart, automated infrastructure solutions: “This isn’t just about building roads and housing. We also want to ensure that future generations enjoy the same high quality of life that Vienna has already achieved.”top