Parking ticket price hike upsets opposition

The Viennese government has been accused of “ripping off” residents by increasing parking fees.

Viennese Green Party boss Maria Vassilakou said yesterday (Weds) leaving a car in the city for one hour would cost two Euros from March 2012 instead of 1.20 Euros. Thirty minutes of parking will cost one Euro instead of 60 Eurocent. The price for a parking ticket allowing to park a vehicle for 90 minutes in the federal capital is set to climb from 1.80 Euros to three Euros, according to the vice mayor. She added that two hours of parking would cost four instead of 2.40 Euros.

All charges affect the parking of cars in the nine districts which are situated within the Gürtel road. There are no general parking fees for Vienna’s other 14 districts. The Greens are in favour of expanding the fee-paying model. They also support suggestions to introduce a road toll system for the city centre or ban cars from Vienna’s old town, the Innere Stadt district, completely. Their coalition partner, Mayor Michael Häupl’s Social Democrats (SPÖ), are expected to veto such ideas in the coming years to avoid falling out with voters as cars are of general high importance in Austria.

Around 1.7 million people are living in Vienna. They own 820,000 cars, more than twice as many as in 1970. A survey has shown that nine of 10 Austrian motorists ruled out living without cars. Around 273,500 cars were registered in Austria between January and September, almost nine per cent more than in the first three quarters of last year. More than 328,000 cars were acquired and registered in Austria in 2010. The figure was an annual record – which could be broken this year, according to automotive sector experts.

Vassilakou justified the upcoming parking price hike with climbing carbon emissions and high fine dust rates in Vienna. She pointed out that the Republic of Austria was facing fines for breaching international limits as the volume of greenhouse emissions shot up sharply after 2009 when the domestic industry was struck down by the global financial crisis. The deputy mayor said most annual parking tickets would become cheaper in March. These tickets can be purchased only by local residents. A growing number of citizens of Vienna’s centred districts are reportedly angered by rising car traffic and a lack of available parking space.

The vice mayor – in charge of urban planning and traffic issues since last year’s city parliament election – stressed it was not her party’s intention to punish anyone by increasing the fees for short-term parking tickets. She explained her government was trying to get more people coming to Vienna to shop to switch to public transport at the city’s outskirts. The opposition has criticised Vienna’s park & ride facilities for their sizes and prices. The Greens have made clear they wanted to build more such car parks but also a higher focus on increasing investments into public transport.

A spokesman for the Viennese branch of the SPÖ admitted today that the parking ticket price increases would not automatically mean more earnings for the city. Vassilakou disclosed today that her party intended to implement harsher parking fees for the Innere Stadt, one of Austria’s most expensive regions for flats. She admitted that such an idea would be risky considering the legal situation as residents of the posh area may sue. Millions of tourists visit the city centre every year as some of Austria’s most popular sights such as the State Opera, St. Stephen’s Cathedral and the Burgtheater are situated there.

The People’s Party (ÖVP) branded the parking ticket price increases a “rip-off” while the Freedom Party (FPÖ) said the SPÖ-Green Party administration was “harassing” drivers. Both parties pointed out that the coalition-internal agreement meant price increases of nearly 70 per cent – and underlined that it followed the city government’s decision to introduce higher fees for the provision of tap water and other services. The ÖAMTC, Austria’s biggest drivers’ association, also criticised the increase of parking tickets. The Austrian Traffic Club (VCÖ) – which promotes environmentally-friendly individual transport solutions like electric cars (e-cars) and bicycles – called the city coalition’s decision a “right step”. The organisation claimed drivers were charged considerably little for parking in international comparison.

The increase of public service fees like waste disposal means additional annual costs of 200 Euros for an average Viennese household of three people, according to the city’s ÖVP. The price hike was made public by the Social Democrats and the Green Party in August. It will come into effect in January 2012. The city government – the first alliance between the SPÖ and the Greens in the history of Vienna – announced last month that the price for a single public transport ticket would inch up by 20 Eurocents to two Euros next May. The price of annual passes will shrink to 365 Euros at the same time. This kind of ticket costs 449 Euros at the moment. The reduction enabled the Greens to encourage people to use Wiener Linien’s services for just one Euro a day. The party campaigned for single tickets costing this amount ahead of the most recent city parliament election which took place in October 2010. Vassilakou wanted to lower the price for annual tickets to 100 Euros. The SPÖ Vienna rejected the idea as unrealistic.