Whether we’re getting around by car, bike, metro or just heading across the street, it takes a whole city to keep us mobile.
“We accommodate 2.6 million passengers a day. That’s a number that speaks for itself.”
When Johanna Wiesholzer’s American cousin came to visit her recently in Vienna, he was appalled at the notion of taking public transport, exclaiming, “We don’t do that – subways are dangerous!”
The irony was not lost on the 41-year-old, who prides herself on working for one of the safest and most highly ranked public transport systems in the world.
“In Vienna, 38 percent of people get around primarily via public transport. Other cities are happy if they reach 20 percent. In this sense, we are very, very, very good indeed,” boasts Wiesholzer. She speaks at a rapid clip and uses double and triple modifiers to emphasize her points.
Her parents come from “completely different professional backgrounds” – her father a geographer who founded a satellite image company and her mother a pediatrician. Wiesholzer, in a sense, does both.
Like her father, she must maintain a full overview – in this case, of the entire transport network – troubleshooting any issues that may threaten the clockwork efficiency of Vienna’s trams, buses and speedy underground trains.
Like her mother, she has to keep calm in the face of chaos – something that seems to come naturally to her.
With these skills, the native of Upper Austria became the first woman in an operational leadership position at Wiener Linien in 2013.
Wiesholzer ranks the diverse issues she deals with on any given day on a scale from “boring” – improperly parked vehicles, about eight such incidents per day, cause the most delays – to “spectacular” – derailings on highspeed turns. That has occurred only three times in the past 10 years, and only once on her watch.
Wiesholzer too commutes to work every day on public transport, and her two school-age children often take the subway on their own.
Suffice to say, it didn’t take long to convince her cousin to give the subway a go.