The decarbonization of passenger transport is an important aspect of climate change mitigation in many countries. This is particularly true for Austria, where one fifth of all national greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are caused by passenger transport [1].

Avoid-Shift-Improve

One popular way of structuring the measures for enabling a transformation towards a sustainable transport system is the so-called A-S-I concept, according to which transport must be avoided, shifted and improved, where possible. Current measures often focus primarily on the latter, for example through efficiency improvements, but a comprehensive approach and integration of all three dimensions is needed [2]. In Figure 1 below, different travel modes and policy instruments are illustrated in connection to the A-S-I concept. Increasing the attractiveness of public transport is mostly a modal shift strategy from car travel to public transport. On the contrary, making cars or busses more fuel efficient is an improve-strategy, while the removal of parking space to manage travel demand is mostly an avoid-strategy (see Figure 1 below).

Figure 1: Avoid-Shift-Improve and Transport Policy Instruments. Illustration from UN (2021), based on TUMI (2019).

Recently, the Austrian government announced a new policy measure that adds to the above-mentioned mode shift dimension, namely a nation-wide public transport ticket (the so-called Klimaticket), which gained national and international media recognition. But what does it comprise, and will it be enough to enable GHG emission reductions in passenger transport?

The Klimaticket

Originally, the ticket idea was called 1-2-3 ticket and was supposed to cost €1 for one federal state, €2 for two, and €3 for three and more federal states per day. However, this system could not be fully implemented [3] and was therefore replaced by the Klimaticket. Again, there are both regional and national solutions available. For the national ticket, the standard price will be €1,095 per year (with an early bird voucher available), starting from the Austrian National Day (October 26, 2021). There will be discounts for specific age groups, for travelers with disabilities and for families. The ticket guarantees access to all regular services (public and private rail transport, urban transport and transport associations) for one year. The national ticket thus delivers what it promises, namely a maximum of €3 per day, as originally planned. However, there are major differences in regional tickets (e.g., €385 for Vorarlberg vs. €588 in Styria).

Will it be enough?

Although the Klimaticket certainly reduces prices for public transport users, price incentives alone have been shown to have limited effectiveness in reducing emissions [4]. However, this can change if several measures are combined in a balanced policy package (see Figure 2 below). Optimally, a policy package for passenger transport should include both push and pull measures, i.e., measures that make driving less attractive as well as such that encourage more sustainable travel modes [5] (also see the different types of instruments in Figure 1). Making public transport more attractive, as the Klimaticket does (for example through lower fares, easier and more convenient use, etc.), belongs to the category of pull measures. On the contrary, the carbon price (planned to start in mid-2022), which is also currently under discussion, is a push measure, as it makes emission-intensive behaviors more expensive. However, as addressed above, chances are high that even if the ticket is implemented, changing prices without considering infrastructure and accessibility will not lead to large shifts in behavior. The figure attempts to illustrate this crucial role of infrastructure by presenting it as the basis for all other measures.

Figure 2: The need for a balanced policy package. Minimally adapted from Thaller et al. (2021)

In summary, current developments in climate policy, such as the introduction of the Klimaticket, are important steps towards achieving national climate targets. However, additional, ambitious measures such as sufficiently high carbon pricing, driving bans or the reallocation of street space and changes in infrastructure must follow to enable the necessary GHG emission reductions. Relying on incentives alone will certainly not be enough, but they form an important part of a broader package of low-carbon policies for passenger transport.


[1] Umweltbundesamt (2021). Klimaschutzbericht 2021. https://www.umweltbundesamt.at/fileadmin/site/publikationen/rep0776.pdf

[2] United Nations (2021). Theme Report on Energy Transition. Towards the achievement of SDG 7 and Net-Zero Emissions. https://www.un.org/sites/un2.un.org/files/2021-twg_2-062321.pdf

[3] Moment (2021). Was ist das Klimaticket? https://www.moment.at/klimaticket-1-2-3-ticket

[4] Axsen et al. (2020). Crafting strong, integrated policy mixes for deep CO2 mitigation in road transport. Nature Climate Change, 10 (9), DOI: 10.1038/s41558-020-0877-y

[5] Thaller et al. (2021). How to design policy packages for sustainable transport: Balancing disruptiveness and implementability. Transportation Research Part D: Transport and Environment, 91, 102714, DOI: 10.1016/j.trd.2021.102714