I think the overarching theme of Dutch transportation infrastructure is as follows: separating modes leads to safe and efficient systems. Whenever possible, vehicle lanes would be separated from bike lanes, which are separated from sidewalks, which are all separated from public transit lanes. And the separation is significant—where it’s not possible to have a physical buffer between modes, the lanes would ideally be separated by a curb. And at the locations where the different modes cross each other—namely intersections—grade separations are the first option considered. This mindset leads to designs that are extremely safe (one of the main reasons why only a small portion of cyclists there where helmets) and efficient (one of the reasons why we irked a large portion of the Dutch people we encountered while moving slowly as a large group—they’re used to a flawless, unobstructed system!).
One major thing I noticed is that, while the bicycle infrastructure in the Netherlands is world-class, there seems to be less of an emphasis on accommodations for pedestrians. In many situations during our trip, it seemed as though the bicycle path or lane was maximized, at the expense of the pedestrian facility. This is a contrast to design in the U.S., where pedestrian infrastructure is usually prioritized over bicycle infrastructure. It’s possible I felt this way simply because we had such a large group that had trouble navigating small sidewalks, but in general it seemed like there was potential to enhance sidewalk sizes in many places. Large groups aren’t the only (or even the most important) people who are affected by this—small pedestrian facilities also play a big role in the lives of people with physical disabilities. In the U.S., the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 was passed, mandating that any public facility be accessible by everyone. In 2016, the Netherlands ratified the UN Convention on the Rights for People with Disabilities; however, change in the infrastructure takes a long time to happen, and it seemed like not a whole lot had been done yet. It was fascinating to see a few Dutch people in motorized wheelchairs keeping the pace and even passing us in the bike lanes—it really showed their propensity for biking! It would be interesting to see how people in hand-driven wheelchairs fare, though.
I think the prominence placed on bikes in the Netherlands definitely has an affect on the culture of urban transportation. Through my experiences during the trip, it was made clear that bicycles usually have the right-of-way against both vehicles and pedestrians. When riding through a busy bike-and-pedestrian-only street during rush hour in Amsterdam, all I had to do was ring my bell and people would immediately get out of the way. At crosswalks, pedestrians have to wait for bikes to pass through to get across. It really showed prioritization of bikes in the transportation culture of the country.
This prioritization also has an effect on the drivers in the country. The design of intersections with bikes, with the “shark teeth” denoting cars should yield to bikes and the raised intersections, makes drivers much more cautious in regards to bikes. I think this translates well to other parts of the roadway, as Dutch drivers always expected bikes and exercised caution around them. This was a wonderful juxtaposition to the U.S., where bikes sometimes seem like a surprise to drivers.
Figure 1: An example of the "shark teeth" indicating that drivers should yield.
Figure 2: A raised intersection.
Pernisco, N. (2018, October 20). Accessibility for the disabled in the Netherlands: 5 Tips When Visiting Holland – DutchReview. Retrieved March 27, 2019, from https://dutchreview.com/culture/living-in-the-netherlands/accessibility-for-the-disabled-in-the-netherlands/
After experiencing the bicycle culture first-hand while studying abroad in the Netherlands for a week, I am impressed by the scale and consistency of their bicycle network that we saw all across the country. It is one thing to read about the Dutch bicycle infrastructure, but it feels completely different to experience it. From my visit in the Netherlands, I think bicycle transportation should be encouraged in other countries and cities around the world because when safe and separated infrastructure exists, cycling becomes more efficient and cheaper than driving. It is also one of the most environmentally friendly modes of transportation. For over 40 years, the Netherlands have been implementing and fine-tuning their bicycle network, which has also created a cultural shift in perspective to put cyclists first over cars. For these reasons, the Netherlands claim one of the highest bicycle rates, with one of the lowest injury rates compared to other countries. Overall the Netherlands infrastructure is a great example to follow in establishing a complete and consistent bicycle network.
There are several key differences in design between the Netherlands and the United States. The biggest difference is the uniformity and complete network seen in the Netherlands. Their protected bicycle lanes are designed to be painted red and raised from the street level, which is consistent nationwide. And bicycle infrastructure is incorporated throughout an entire town or city. Even when space is limited, advisory bike lanes will be designed along the street or other traffic calming measures, such as bike boulevards will be created. These elements are not commonly seen in America. Uniform elements such as raised bicycle lanes or designated paint colors are not enforced across the country. And the safe bicycle infrastructure that exists in major cities like Atlanta consists of a few bicycle lanes or protected cycle tracks, which do not connect across the entire city. Often there is little focus on designing minor streets in America to be bike friendly. Even though major arterial roads are dangerous for cyclists, smaller streets can create more connections for cyclists at an inexpensive cost. And one of the most important differences in America is that there are little safety measures established for cyclists at intersections. In the Netherlands, many elements are designed for bicycle safety and efficiency at intersections, such as protective islands around the intersection corners and intelligent traffic light systems that increases bicycle turning and through-put efficiency. These are just a few basic differences between the infrastructure in the Netherlands and in America. However, there are also big difference between our cultural perspectives regarding bicycle transportation.
Cycling rates are high in the Netherlands because Dutch citizens pushed for more bicycle infrastructure. However, in America riots and protests over the current bicycle infrastructure are not common, like they were in the 1970s for the Dutch. This major cultural impact in the Netherlands forced the government to incorporate safe, efficient protected infrastructure for cyclists. Following the implementation of bicycle networks, more people began to bike to work and around their community. I believe this is the most important take away from the trip. Most people will only bike if it feels safe. And the Netherlands only created a safe bicycle network once the people fought for it. Since protests and riots over bicycle infrastructure in America are not common, the government instead must take initiative on its own if it wants to see a shift away from car dependent transportation and higher bicycle rates. Once the infrastructure is established, more people will likely choose to bike to nearby destinations instead of drive.
Now that my jet lag is mostly gone and I’ve warmed my cold hands/feet with the Georgian heat, it’s time to reflect on my time in the Netherlands. Although I could write an entire book about it, I will spare you and just offer the highlights:
1. Ditching the car
The smooth integration of biking and transit made it easy to get just about anywhere. The abundance of bike parking at the transit stations, coupled with the easy transition from street level to parking, made ditching the car almost too easy. Furthermore, the train portion of the trip allowed me to free up my hands to get some work done (like write my blog post!).
2. Safety and comfort
Separating bikes, vehicles, and pedestrians with variable sidewalk and roadway heights is a popular design principle used by the Dutch. After my trip to the Netherlands, I understand why. Not only is this separation safer, but it is more comfortable for everyone in the right-of-way. It was almost comical listening to the Dutch explain their rides in America because sharing space with cars moving 45mph absolutely terrified them.
An even greater testament to the safety of Dutch bicycle infrastructure is the lack of helmets. After 50+ miles on my bicycle, I can count the number of helmets I saw on one hand, and even then, they were only worn by children. We could delve into whether I fundamentally agree with this, but regardless, the lack of helmet use spoke volumes.
3. Biking, biking everywhere (and everyone)
Bike paths are everywhere. They are in the city, countryside, and alongside freeways. There is almost always a well-planned space for cycling that provides a direct path from point A to B. I also loved the diversity of bikers. In the United States, a common argument is, “people don’t want to cycle.” Although true, this is only because riders aren’t given a thorough network of bicycle paths that provide a high level of safety like the paths offered in the Netherlands. We do not see women, the elderly, or children biking alone in the United States. In the Netherlands, these groups seemed to make up the majority.
Now take each point above, think of the opposite scenario, and there you have biking infrastructure and culture in United States. Design is different in the Netherlands because it rearranges the hierarchy of roadway design, putting bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure needs above cars. Increased priority has allowed cyclist culture to dominate the Netherlands, which is why there are so many people doing it, whether young or old, man or woman. The success of cycling infrastructure has sparked an increase in cycling, and the increase in cycling feeds back into better infrastructure and design. This ongoing “cycle” of culture and infrastructure is one I hope the US can eventually catch on to.
However, no one is perfect, and before the US starts plopping bike infrastructure haphazardly into its right-of-ways, there are some considerations that must be taken to account, which brings me to…
1. Bike traffic
Whether we’re talking about bikes or cars, traffic still exists. Morning rush hour is still a thing, and there are even conversations about widening bike lanes that are already 8 feet wide. Even though just about everyone detests traffic, it is a sign that a transportation system is being put to good use. On the bright side, at least an increase bicycle traffic does not mean an increase in carbon emissions.
2.Recognizing and using the bicycle infrastructure properly
There were a handful of opportunities to bike without our 20+ person group, but I noticed that during these times I found it harder to properly use the infrastructure because I had to navigate my own path. I oftentimes found myself biking on the wrong side of the street or taking a turn incorrectly. The citizens of the Netherlands most likely do not have this issue because they receive a formal education in cycling, and oh yeah, they have been doing it their whole lives!
3. Cars are still bigger than you
Most of the time I felt safe. Biking through Amsterdam at 5:00 PM on a beautiful, yet bustling Saturday afternoon was a testament to this. Cars were patient and pedestrians stayed on the sidewalk. However, there were still a number of near-misses. The near-misses usually occurred when I had to cross vehicular traffic, whether in an intersection or during a left turn. Curbside loading/unloading was also frequent for both passenger vehicles and commercial trucks, creating another scenario where I did not quite feel comfortable weaving out of my dedicated lane into faster-moving traffic.
In the end...
I hope to use what I’ve learned in the Netherlands to better shape the built environment in the United States. Incorporating bicycle (and transit) infrastructure into our transportation system will make our communities more livable by offering increased mobility and decreased vehicular congestion. As for me, I have pledged to swap my car for my bike for at least 1 trip per week. It may not be much, but it’s a start. After all, enduring change doesn’t happen overnight, but gradually, and for that, the United States should have hope.
For the past week, we have enjoyed taking, trains, ferries, trams, metros, and bikes across the Netherlands! The transit system is very robust in the Netherlands and I feel like the world is my oyster because I can take transit to wherever I would like to go!
Transit in the Netherlands is reliable and responsive. An expansive regional transit system connects different cities in the Netherlands. In each large city, a local transit system frequently connects internal communities. The Dutch hold all transit to a very high bar; In Amsterdam, a “frequent” train/tram/or bus arrives every 4 -6 minutes but in the US, a “frequent” bus arrives in less than 15 minutes. The Dutch use social and actual safety of staff and passengers, punctuality, seat availability and passenger-service, and travel information as performance indicators for their transit system (https://www.emta.com/IMG/pdf/brochure.pdf). Performance measures are tracked and used in conjunction with complex modelings system, historical data, and performance goals. Transit can be reliable and responsive with technology, tracking performance measures, and investment. If a transit system has a lot of monetary investment, service will be frequent and clean which are appealing to passengers. During our tour of transit in Amsterdam, I found it refreshing to talk with professionals in Amsterdam about transit goals because they discussed that they were also unsure about how their performance metrics would change with their new goals.
Bikes and Transit
Biking and walking are important sustainable modes of transportation related to public transportation; They are often lumped into public transportation in addition to buses, metros, and trams in the Netherlands because they are so highly associated. A car-free lifestyle is possible in the Netherlands with a combination of biking, walking, and transit. Passengers can bike/walk to stations, take the train into the city, and then bike/walk the last mile.
Parking a bike in a transit station is easy in the Netherlands. Bike parking at transit stations is a priority for Dutch mobility designers and planners. They are very proud of the planning and infrastructure that goes into bike parking lots. In Utrecht, bike parking at transit stations in the Netherlands will be able to hold over 12,000 bikes in spaces! A number of design components like circulation, storage space, and capacity, all play an important part in the functionality of bicycle parking spaces.
Boarding a train with a bike in the Netherlands is not as easy as parking a bike. Boarding a train with a bike requires an extra ticket, special bike train car, and a bit of maneuvering. Bikes are not allowed to board a train during rush hour because they take up a large space that could be dedicated to passengers. During off-hours, a bike can be brought aboard a train but the attendant may require the passenger to take the following train. A low floor train with foldable chairs, that can be moved out of the way, would facilitate easy boarding for passengers and passengers with a bike. Foldable bikes can be brought on board at any time because they take up limited space.
Dutch engineers and planners focus on integrating two major modes of transportation in the country: cycling and transit. They do this by ensuring that every street, intersection, and transit station is multimodal in nature (i.e. it is accessible by multiple modes of transportation).
The Dutch want to incentivize integrating bikes and transit on trips; they do this by making it easy and efficient to bike to a station and board a train. In every city we’ve visited, a plethora of bicycle parking is provided at the train stations. Large garages are constructed to hold bikes in an indoor and secure facility, and bike parking is also available outside in a less-formal fashion.
Figure 1: One of the bicycle parking garages at the Delft train station.
To show the extent of bike parking at train stations, one of the indoor parking facilities at the central station in Utrecht can hold up to 12,500 bikes. Bike parking in smaller cities, like Delft, is free for up to 14 days, and in larger cities it’s free for 24 hours before you have to pay to keep your bike there. Additionally, to make the transition between bike and train easier, these garages allow you to actually ride your bike directly into the garage and up to an open spot. The bike paths lead directly from the streets into the garage.
Figure 2: Bike-in entrance to the Utrecht train station parking.
Figure 3: Inside of the Utrecht station bike parking.
It is also possible to take your bike on board a train, with a few restrictions. Bikes are allowed on intercity heavy rail and some intra-city trams. On the heavy rail, however, there are only certain cars that you are allowed to bring your bike on, designated with a bike symbol on the outside. These cars have space for bikes, as well as equipment for securing the bike so it doesn’t fall during the journey. Also, you are not allowed to take a bike on the train during the peak travel times in the morning and afternoon, as the cars would be too crowded. Lastly, you are required to buy a special ticket to have your bike on the train.
Figure 4: A bike car on the tram in Amsterdam.
Figure 5: The equipment provided for securing a bike on the intercity sprinter trains.
Dutch Transit in General
Transit performance in the Netherlands is measured in terms of ridership, travel times, dwelling times, and rider satisfaction. Ridership is especially important for newer transit lines—for the newly constructed North-South line in Amsterdam, they were concerned about the levels of ridership upon opening the line; but they aren’t concerned any more, as less than a year after opening, they’ve already reached over 80% of the projected ridership by the year 2030. And rider satisfaction is always a concern with the government. In Amsterdam, the creation of the new islands IJburg has caused concern among citizens that the 26 tram will become overcrowded. As a result, the government is looking into alternatives to reduce crowding on the tram.
In the Netherlands, punctuality is an important value, and so they are always concerned with reducing travel times and dwelling times. In order to make transit reliable, urban designers have separated rails and lanes from other traffic. They’ve done this through grade separation and creating separate corridors for transit. Through this, they’ve minimized the conflicts with other traffic. Additionally, at the locations where transit and other traffic do mix, they’ve used traffic signal priority to minimize wait times for transit.
Today the class toured the ins and outs of the Amsterdam public transit system. The quaint town of Delft is worlds apart from the port city of Amsterdam it seems. While that was the focus for the group today, our class of burgeoning bike infrastructure experts has reaped the rewards of a top-tier transit system composed of trains, trams, and busses. This system is certainly not compartmentalized in relation to the biking infrastructure – the two systems interact and complement one another.
Bikes and "De Trein"
Bikes and transit are primarily integrated so that long distances can be covered by train or tram, while the “last mile” can be covered by bike. The system functions so that bikes can be brought on board trains and some other vehicles (trams, etc). Certain train cars are marked with a bike symbol to indicated space for a stored bike.
Getting a bike into the station is moderately simple as well. One can simply bring them through the turnstiles. This can only be done on non-peak hours, however. When some of our group members took their bikes on board, they had to purchase a special pass for around 7 Euros. There are special provisions for foldable bikes, which can be taken on without charge.
Bikes in the Station
Bikes in the station
The emphasis by the Dutch, by far, is to provide quality bike parking in and around stations so that a rider may store a bike at a station without having bring the bike along for the ride. Many commuters will have two bikes: one for the “initial mile” to the station and one for the “final mile” once at the destination. This emphasis can be seen in the shear amount of investment in bike storage. Utrecht had multiple storage areas with the largest holding 12,000 bikes. Den Haag, Delft, and virtually all major Dutch cities had large amounts of indoor bike parking at transit stations, while many cities were also in the process of building additional parking. Available parking is at capacity wherever one travels, showing the popularity of this approach. In these facilities, the exterior bike routes flow seamlessly into the garage, while location is always very close to the transit.
Transit: Final Thoughts
This coordinated system does not only rely on bike facilities alone. The trains form a critical component and must function efficiently to drive usage. To measure transit performance, the Dutch focus on measurables such as ridership, total trip time, on-time arrivals, and dwelling time. In Amsterdam, we have seen a focus on reducing total trip time in particular, as the North-South metro line was a massive investment for the city with a total cost above 3 billion Euros. Efforts are made in the hopes that transit is reliable and responsive. As I have visited, trains are rarely delayed, and ETAs are posted in multiple locations. For trains and trams, there is a focus on dedicated right-of-way. This reduces delays caused by car traffic. Out of all modes, including bike and pedestrian, transit receives first priority. With this system in place, the Dutch have paved the way for a quality combination of transit and bikes so that people can move about with ease.
From what I have gained so far, the Dutch will do almost anything, if not everything, for cyclists. The integration of bikes and transit seems like a piece of cake to them. Basically, one cannot think of transit in the Netherlands without thinking of bikes. The two main ways that the Dutch integrate transit and bikes is by allowing bicycles on trains and by having bike parking at train stations. Train stations have bike shops and bike parking where one can rent a bike, fix bike malfunctions, or even park their bike. Figure 1 and figure 2 below show the world’s largest bike parking with a full capacity of 12,500 parking places found in Utrecht.
Figure 1. World’s largest parking
Figure 2. Entrance for cyclists
Some trains also have cars where cyclists may bring their bikes along. Otherwise, cyclists may rent a bike through bikeshare at their destination. Figure 3 below shows a bike parking facility that we visited. The yellow bikes are bike share bikes. Figure 4 depicts the efficient use of space at bike parking facilities
Figure 3. Bike parking facility
Figure 4. Wow! Bikes on top of bikes
The bike parking are convenient for cyclists in multiple ways. First, there are no stairs inside the facilities where cyclists bike, maybe one step to prohibit biking in dangerous locations such as entrances. The absence of stairs and presence of ramps make it easy for cyclists to navigate the bike parks. Additionally, narrow pathways, turns, and curves slow down cyclists which prevents speeding and, in turn, accidents from occurring.
So, how come the Dutch are so invested in biking? How come they can have a bike parking facility with 12,500 bike parking spaces? Well, that is because the Dutch practice utilitarian cycling. They are able to do this because of the safety factors that have been put in place. If it was not safe to cycle, then the cycling rate would not be as high. If the cycling rate was not as high, then I do not think that the government would push for bike infrastructure as much. The Dutch measure transit performance using speed and reliability. For bikes, speed includes how long it takes a cyclist to get from point A to point B using the shortest distance possible. In addition to this, for public transit, it also includes dwell time. Speed decreases as operational time increases. Operational time may increase due to numerous factors such as dwell time, and inefficient use of vehicles and driving staff. Dwell time increases due to ticketing on the trams. For both cyclists and public transit, speed and reliability can be increased by redesigning streets, placing priority traffic signals, and canceling stops and transfers for buses, trams, trains, and the metro. By minimizing the wait time, transit has been made more reliable and responsive to create the safest and most efficient plan possible.
Figure 1: Conor Enjoying the Tram from Utrecht to the Beach
Over the past six days, we have been all over Holland. We landed by plane in Amsterdam, took a train to Delft, walked and biked around there, took trains and trams to other cities, and eventually took more public transit back to Amsterdam. We never had any need for cars, as we biked and walked for short trips and seamlessly connected to public transit for longer distances. Every train station we have been to has extensive bicycle parking, which is typically free for up to two weeks. The bike parking at Delft station has two levels, with racks above that swing down for easy storage. At times, especially on weekends when college students take the train home, the parking facilities fill up to capacity. During these times, some of us had to park our bikes in designated space behind the racks. Even then, it was relatively easy to secure a bicycle and enter the train station directly.
Figure 2: Bike Parking at Utrecht Train Station
Bicycle parking facilities are often indoors, have some form of security, and have rental and repair shops on site. This makes biking a convenient way to get to and from stations for residents and visitors. Ramps allow cyclists to ride directly into the parking facility, and train stations are typically connected to the bike parking. Tram and metro are not quite as reliable for bike parking, but they connect easily with intercity trains. Taking bikes on trains is allowed for a small fee except during rush hour, but most riders choose to leave them at the station. There is often very little space for bikes, and most prefer to rent or have a second bike in their destination city. The OV chip card gives access to all trains, trams, subways, and “OV fiets” bike rental facilities. This all-inclusive card makes using public transit much more convenient and would be a great step forward for Atlanta with the integration of transit in multiple counties.
Figure 3: Gates to Enter Train Platforms, Using OV Chip Card as Payment
The Dutch measure transit performance based on total use and travel times, as well as other technical statistics. When the municipality of Amsterdam spent over 3 billion euros to build a north-south metro line, they noted the reduction in travel time from 30 to 15 minutes, and about 100,000 daily trips. They also measure the level of accuracy for arrival and departure times, as punctuality is important in Dutch culture. There was a lot of pushback from residents before and during construction of the metro line because of delays and costs, but residents have not hesitated to use the new system to cut times on their trips.
Figure 4: Metro in Amsterdam
Dutch Transit: Reliable and Responsive
Video boards are impossible to miss in Dutch transit stations. Train lines show departure time, all stops, and track numbers. Tram and metro stops have similar signs, with line number and destination stop so that riders know where they are headed. Maps are shown in stations and on cars, with some even having lights for upcoming stops. The public transit has been very timely, and we have not had to wait long at any stops. The Amsterdam tram goes 15 times per hour so that no rider should wait more than 4 minutes. This focus on frequency and prompt arrival is consistent throughout the transit system, and all routes account for traffic and sharing of tracks. The light rail system in Amsterdam has spots when one tram has to wait for another but queuing and passing is consistent and fair to keep all lines on schedule.
After spending 7 days in the Netherlands, it has become very clear how integral the transit system has become to the functionality of the whole country. This includes large and fast intercity trains to get across the country, localized regional trains and trams to get between districts, and metro systems in large cities to get across the dense districts. Investment in the train system has allowed for a decrease in automobile use at all levels across the country.
Figure 1: Fun in the Dan Haag Tram
Transit & Bikes
The key to such an effective bicycling system in the Netherlands is the connectivity to transit lines throughout the transit network; this ranges from the largest stations in Den Haag and Utrecht to much smaller local ones. Every transit station has bicycle parking located right next to the station, including small outdoor parking zones to massive decks comparable to automobile parking decks in the US. Delft station holds close to 7,000 spots with additions coming soon. Den Haag is currently working on a massive expansion to hold around 9,000 bicycles. Utrecht central station has by far the largest with 12,000 bicycles.
Figure 2: Bicycle Parking at Delft Station
Figure 3: Under Construction Bicycle Parking in Den Haag
Figure 4: Bicycle Parking at Utrecht Station
Getting to the bike parking stations is so easy and user-friendly. Bicycle paths lead you right to the parking areas and many stations are equipped with sensors that tell you how many spots are available in each row. For the locations we traveled to, bike parking is completely free for all users within a limited time period; this is quite useful for day trips and getting between towns.
Biking and Boarding
If you don't want to park your bike before entering the train station, bicycles are generally allowed on board the trains, although with some limitations. A special ticket that costs more is required, only certain train cars allow it, and there are restrictions during rush hour. In general, the Dutch are trying to maximize capacity on the trains, so these limitations are an incentive to use the bike parking stations; therefore it is preferred you either have bicycles in multiple locations or rent bikes with the OV chipkart. This is quite different to the approach taken in the United States, especially in Atlanta, where bicycles seem to be allowed and encouraged on transit, especially the bus systems. This is likely because the success of both the growing cycling and transit networks are intertwined.
Dutch Transit Performance
Transit effectiveness and performance can be quite difficult to measure, especially when many facilities are growing at rapid rates. On the user side, the best metric is ridership; this goes beyond just higher numbers, but instead where people are actually traveling and how they get there. Understanding of this relationship is vital in transit projections and planning. Total trip time is another important metric; optimization of trip time allows for more people to cycle through the system faster. In Amsterdam, the addition of the North-South rail line improved trip time from 25 minutes to 15 minutes, a massive achievement. On time arrival percentage is another performance measure that tells a lot about the efficiency of the system in real time; if vehicles are arriving late, not only are there repairs and improvements needed, but the public will have a stigma about the transit and decrease ridership. This is why timely arrival percentages are absolutely vital.
Through the past few days we have seen multiple different ways to get around town and travel from city to city. The first few days we traveled primarily by trains that connect city to city. Then, the tram, most similar to the streetcar, was introduced to us. In Amsterdam, we used the Metro and the tram to move from location to location in our self-guided transit tour. Each transition was fairly seamless, especially for us foreigners, and the maps and way-finding devices were easy to understand. This was validated by our ability to navigate throughout the city with such a huge group and barely slip up. I have only ever used MARTA, and therefore was overwhelmed by the options available to me and pleased with how well they work. In Marc Drost’s presentation on Amsterdam public transit, he emphasized that as Amsterdam expands geographically and demographically, the need for an even more effective public transit system must exist, especially if they want to limit car usage. Every station has bright screens that accurately predict the next tram. As the Dutch tend to be on time and value accuracy, their transit performance reflects that in examining on-time arrival data. In addition to that, the quantity of daily trips and travel times are used to estimate future need and suit the public better.
What About Bikes?
Many of our public transit visits began on bike, and there was never a problem making sense of the process of parking your bike and riding on the train. Frequently in Delft we parked our bikes and then travelled via train, and while occasionally it was difficult to find everybody a space, it tended to be a quick process. In other cities such as The Hague and Utrecht, similar facilities exist. Figure 1 shows the abundance of bike parking available in Utrecht, where 12,000 bikes can be stored.
Figure 1. Utrecht Bicycle Parking
I would go so far as to say that because they were so commonplace, we became desensitized to the scope and magnitude of these bike parking facilities. If you were to bring your bike onto the train, you would only be allowed to do so during non-peak hours and you must pay a fee of 6.90 euro for 24 hours. This is to prevent overcrowding on the trains. It also encourages people to take advantage of a bike share program; many people keep a bike in their hometown, use that bike to travel to the train station, take the train, and then use a rental bike in their work location. Bike paths provide a clear way to go from the city to the bike parking, where entrances to the station border the bikes.
As the week progressed and we visited bigger cities, the public’s reliance on public transit became more and more evident. Looking out to the city of The Hauge in Figure 2, it reminded me of looking at Atlanta’s connector. However, in Atlanta, cars dominate the city’s artery, whereas in Netherlands the train and tram serves this purpose.
Figure 2. Utrecht Trains Artery
The Dutch system we got to see is next to perfect; while a few information boards were broken and a few trams were overcrowded, the public transit facilities seen were accessible, polished, and effective. Again, as someone who only uses MARTA heavy rail for short distances, I really enjoyed the ability to sit on the train and travel quickly during peak hours while relaxing, which is not like the experience of driving through Atlanta rush hour. In the future, I question how Amsterdam especially will be able to maintain bicycle parking facilities while expanding the trains’ and trams’ reach and scope.