(Vienna) Vienna is recognized as one of the greenest cities in the world. Particularly because of the profusion of green spaces, its widely used, efficient and extensive public transport network, as well as its residential heating system supplied by… waste.
50% green spaces
The Prater is the largest park in Vienna, where Viennese come to recharge their batteries on weekends, cycle, run, take a walk in nature by taking one of the little trains. It is 6 km2 – compared to 2.6 km2 for Parc Jean-Drapeau, in Montreal.
In the XVIIIe century, it was the hunting ground of the nobility, near the Danube. But Emperor Joseph II, of the Habsburg dynasty, decided to hand the place over to the people in 1766, and the Prater has remained a green space ever since, never being eaten away by commercial or real estate developments.
It is in particular the Prater which allows the City of Vienna to boast of having 50% of green spaces on its territory. The capital of Austria is also surrounded by wooded hills, vineyards and farmland. There is also a portion of a national park.
“One of the reasons I feel good here is that we are surrounded by the Viennese forest. You don’t have to go far to enjoy nature, every weekend you can go for family hikes, ”says Julie-Anne Roberge, a Quebecer married to an Austrian, who has lived in Vienna for eight years with her husband and his three children.
Even in the center, there are a lot of trees and parks.
“Each tree is numbered. If you want to cut down a tree, the request goes to a committee to determine how many trees need to be replanted to replace it. Sometimes it requires four or five new trees, ”says Alfred Strigl, a sustainability consultant who teaches at the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences in Vienna.
In the south of the city, a new district called “city of the biotope” has been built on the site of a former Coca-Cola factory. Tamara Schwarzmayr, from the Caritas organization, which takes care of the management of the neighborhood, shows us the community gardens, green walls and green roofs. “They minimize the effect of heat islands in the city, and help cool the entire neighborhood in summer,” she notes.
But some note that green roofs, even if they are desirable, are not spaces accessible to the population.
“The distribution is not fair in the city,” laments Lilli Licka, landscape architect, professor at the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences in Vienna. “The City has set itself the ambitious objective of having 8 m2 of green spaces per inhabitant, but in some areas, it is not even 4 m2. There is still a lot to do to achieve a fair distribution of green spaces. ”
Public transport: 1 euro per day
To travel by metro, tram or bus, using a reliable and extensive network, Viennese pay only 1 euro per day, or 360 euros (CAN $ 527) per year. In comparison, Montrealers who subscribe to the OPUS card year-round pay $ 995 (taking into account the free month offered to annual subscribers).
When the City of Vienna implemented this measure in 2012, the number of subscriptions exploded: almost half of the 1.9 million inhabitants now have an annual subscription.
This is our greatest achievement. Not only has the use of public transport increased, but the number of cars has also declined.
Huem Otero Garcia, city councilor and member of the Green Party
For 10 years, the Greens formed a coalition with the Social Democratic Party to govern the city of Vienna, which allowed them to implement certain measures, such as lowering the price of public transport.
The 1 euro per day subscription was financed by parking revenues and a tax imposed on employers.
Two metropolises, two metros
- Vienna metro: 190 stations, 5 lines, 84.4 km
- Montreal metro: 73 stations, 4 lines, 68 km
Waste that heats homes
Looks like a modern work of art, with its vivid colors and huge golden ball, but it’s a huge heater and air conditioner, fed by tons of rubbish: the Spittelau incinerator, decorated by the painter and designer Viennese Friedensreich Hundertwasser, based in a district to the north of Vienna, burns 250,000 tonnes of household waste every year.
The energy thus generated is used to heat 60,000 homes, as well as the largest hospital in the city, thanks to a “district heating” system: huge pipes distribute hot air in the area. In summer, a “district air conditioning” system is supplied by waste incineration.
This means that a huge amount of waste does not end up in landfills. But what about the emissions into the atmosphere, present in the smoke expelled from the chimney of the incinerator? The City of Vienna claims that its filtering process captures the main polluting emissions. An indicator board placed near the incinerator notes the quantities of six polluting gases released, which are well below the maximum limits considered acceptable.
“But burning the waste still produces CO2, which is not ideal. The future is more about reducing waste at the source, ”notes Green Party city councilor Huem Otero Garcia.