I am a little late on writing this transit post (sorry Dave and Kari), but I find it very fitting that I am writing it as I roar toward Brussels at 300 kph aboard a Thalys high speed train. Before I dive into the bike/transit connection I want to comment on how well the layers of transit are integrated here in the Netherlands relative to the United States. From Amsterdam Central it is possible to use a single fare card to board almost all types of transit, from regional and intercity trains to local buses. The only exception to the single fare card is the international trains which the Dutch man sitting next to me said is a source of irritation to the public.
In terms of the integration of transit and bikes, the Dutch primarily focus on providing ample bike parking at their transit stations. It was fun to visit Utrecht, where the largest bike parking facility in the world is currently being constructed, and then Dan Haag where they were obviously jealous of Utrecht and their massive deck. The decks at the large stations and the normal parking at the other stations across the country are well connected to the platforms and therefore make the transition from bike to train almost seamless. The connection is facilitated by both extremely close proximity to the platforms as well as clearly marked signage and in terms of the parking decks, direct connections to the station where you don’t have to exit the deck to enter the station. Kanaad and I’s trip through the Green Heart of Holland also showed how bike parking is also important to transit in rural areas. We noticed multiple times the relatively large number of bikes parked at bus stops (5 to 8) along the rural roads. By placing parking at stops along these bus routes the Dutch can reduce the number of stops the rural buses have to make and therefore speed up the service that can allow them to operate at higher frequencies.
In addition to the bike parking, we also had the opportunity to bring our bikes on the train. Bikes can be brought aboard the regional rail system but are not allowed on buses, trams, or metros. The first time we brought our bikes on the train, after our Sunday trip to Delta Works, we learned how uncommon it is in the Netherlands as we got many odd looks from the locals. We also learned that to bring bikes on the trains you are supposed to purchase an extra ticket for the bikes. Fortunately, the conductor was nice and allowed for us to ride without one. The second ride, from Utrecht to Delft after our great journey across the country, we purchased the bike tickets and expertly navigated the lifts and fare gates to victory.
Outside of looking at the bike elements of transit in the Netherlands, we were also given the opportunity to listen to two professionals from the Amsterdam regional organization talk about transit in the region. They talked a lot about how they work with the operators in the region, with GBV being the primary operator within the city itself, to measure performance. They talked about how they use on-time performance to measure how well the system is performing but also talked about how they use kilometers of route traveled as the driving metric for the operator. Previously they had used hours of service as their measure of what GBV would provide, but found that switching to the kilometers of route traveled metric as more effective because the operator has a natural incentive to provide fast, reliable service to cover as many kilometers as possible. The professionals expressed how they have been satisfied, and that the public has been satisfied, with the improvements in service reliability since the transition. Overall the Dutch have strong integration of bikes with their transit system and have some effective measures to ensure that their transit service is reliable and fast.