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.
How do the Dutch integrate transit & bikes? How easy is it to park your bike & board a train? What design elements influence the transition? Can bikes be brought on board? How do the Dutch measure transit performance? How have they made transit reliable and responsive?
In Dutch cities, bike infrastructure is incorporated into transit planning. Cycling is seen as a connector between public transportation networks and therefore must be integrated into transit infrastructure. The foremost example is the bike parking at train stations. In every city we visited, we have seen huge bike parking facilities with thousands of bicycles. Making bike parking accessible is an integral component of their transportation design, encouraging people to bike to the station and take the train instead of driving. Not only are there thousands of free spaces, but there are systems in place to help cyclists find available spots. In Utrecht, for example, they tracked how many spots were open per row and displayed that number on a screen at the beginning of each row. We've also seen stations with elevators large enough for multiple bikes, or bike-friendly ramp escalators.
Multi-level Bike Parking
Another aspect of transit and bike integration is for when riders need to take their bikes with them. This is usually doable as there is a designated area for bikes on many of the trains and trams. The exception, however, is if the trains or trams are in peak hours. During these high ridership hours, bikes aren't allowed, even in the compartments that are meant for bikes. The experience of taking your bike on the train/tram really varies with how full it is. If there are many people, it can be stressful trying to find a space for your bike and getting it on and off in time. However, people are accommodating and once your bike is settled, it's quite easy.
A Bike Spot on a Tram
It is clear a lot of thought and planning went into transportation planning in Dutch cities. They consider all relevant factors when trying to improve a certain aspect of transportation, making it more efficient and accessible. In order to understand the effects of these extensive efforts, they need methods of measuring transit performance. Some parameters they use are tracking the share of trips taken by each mode of transportation. The overall goal is to decrease the percentage of trips taken by car, so if this number is decreasing, it could mean that the city has taken successful measures in public transportation and cycling infrastructure. Some successful examples we have learned about on this trip include redesigning corridors to be safer for cyclists and connecting transit networks and cycling networks, not to mention timely and well-connected train and tram lines. Additionally, planners actively solicit public feedback and try to work with the surrounding community to address their concerns and meet their needs. In doing this, planners are addressing all aspects of sustainability and are succeeding in making their cities more livable.
The Dutch quite often integrate bikes on transit. Most trains have designated cars for people traveling with bicycles, however it is more common to park bikes before boarding trains. There are several “Bike-and-Ride” locations at train stations to incentivize people commuting longer distances to bike part of the route and take the train instead of driving by car. To support this, there are rideshare programs located in bike parking facilities for people who travel further distances after taking the train. Cycle paths typically lead directly underneath train stations by means of tunnels that go into bike parking areas. One example is shown below:
Figure 1: Leidschenveen Railway Station Bike Parking
Trains stations integrate bikes through parking design. You can see in the figure below that pedestrians enter the train station from this street on the left with stairs and an escalator, and bikes enter the parking deck directly at grade with the street.
Figure 2: Entrance and Exit to Bike Parking Underneath the Utrecht Centraal Railway Station
Utrecht Centraal Railway Station currently offers a capacity of 12,500 bike parking spots and is increasing that number to 22,000 spaces which will be the world’s largest. The bike parking has two levels to increase capacity in the parking deck, seen in Figure 3. At the far back of the figure, you can see the two entrances into the bike parking floors.
Figure 3: Two Story Bike Parking at Utrecht Centraal Railway Station
Not only is a sign posted at the entrance of each parking aisle, but there are sensor lights above each parking spot to help locate available parking spaces. You can see in the figure below the sign posting in Utrecht.
Figure 4: Signage in Bike Parking Facilities to Help Users Locate Available Spots
Trains have a higher height of entry than trams to encourage bike parking at train stations. Trains are for traveling cross country between cities, and trams are for inner city travel. Bikes can be taken on board trams with lower ridership because there is more space to fit bikes with the current demand. The Metro in Amsterdam has platform heights equivalent to the height of the trains which makes for a smoother transition for cyclists to bring their bikes on board.
Dutch Transit Performance Measures
Dutch measure transit performance in numerous ways including waiting time at traffic signals, amount of traffic, safety records, dwell time for public transit systems, and reliability. Hague traffic operation engineers aim for waiting times below 100 seconds, with the best wait times under 70 seconds at traffic signals for bikes and vehicles. Amount of traffic includes parking capacity for bikes and vehicles. When bike parking reaches capacity consistently, the transit authority must find alternative locations for bike parking to continue encouraging cycling as a transit mode. Dwell time includes time to enter the transit system and scan in, such as the Metro in Amsterdam, as well as wait for a train. Reliability is paired with consistency that people can rely on the bus, train, tram or cycle path to take a certain amount of time for their commute without unexpected delays or interruptions. One difficult aspect of signal timings is when priority is given to trams on shared streets in urban areas, such as the Hague, because it delays cycle times. Shared streets can include where pedestrians and cyclists share the roadway with the tram line. Another example is when bikes are prioritized over vehicles, such as in Delft, so every time a bike button is pressed at an intersection, the cyclists can pass through first. Signal timings are important measures for reliability.
In a major city like Amsterdam, where people are rushing around to various destinations, it is crucial for the Dutch to integrate their public transportation system with their bicycle network. Public transportation, like trains, trams, and buses, allow people to travel long distances that would be difficult on a bicycle. At the same time, a safe and easy bicycle network complements these PT systems by providing more efficient travel for the “last mile” of their trips. Even though Amsterdam is the largest city in the Netherlands with the most tourism, it is not the only one to integrate transit and bicycles. All cities that our class visited had several similar designs to accommodate its residents.
Transit & Bicycle Integration Designs
Many elements have been incorporated by the Dutch to integrate their transit system and bicycle network. For instance, trains have bicycle cars to allow users to bring their bikes on board. When part of our group biked to Houten in the morning of our class site visit, we were easily able to take our bikes back on the trains in the evening. Some bicycles are even designed to fold up, as seen in the image below. This takes up half the space of a normal bicycle, which is easier for the user to manage and less irritating to other passengers on board.
Fold Up Bicycle
Similarly, bikes can be brought on trams and buses as well. As seen in the image below, trams have hooks to stabilize bicycles. And buses will have front racks to accommodate bicycles.
Transit & Bicycle Transition Design
Transit & Bicycle Transition Design
Several transition designs have also been developed for the Dutch people who want to ride to a station, but who do not want to deal with the complications of bringing their bike on board public transit. Easy access to bicycle parking and storage is the most common transition design. While Americans are in need of more car parking near transit lines, the Dutch appreciate more bicycle space near public transportation. In every city that our group visited, large spaces for bicycle parking were conveniently located right next to the major trains stations. This allows efficient and inexpensive transitions between both systems, which save valuable time and money for Dutch bikers who can easily park their bikes, and then transition to transit (or vice versa) within minutes. And these spaces will always be able to accommodate more people that a similar structure built for car parking due to the size difference. Additionally, bike share programs are becoming popular at train stations for large cities. In Utrecht, it only costs four euros to rent a bike for the day.
The Dutch measure transit performance based on efficiency, frequency, and reliability. Many people have different needs for travel. Some need to bring their bicycles with them to their destination, while others need parking space near to stations to leave their bicycles. The transition and integration of transit and bicycles satisfy several different needs tomake transportation efficient for the users. Public transportation is also frequent and reliable. This was evident several times when our group split apart intentionally or not. We were always able to find each other or our destination when needed due to the reliability of the transit system and within a short timeframe due to the frequency of the transit line connection. Therefore, the performance of the Dutch transit system is highly responsive to the needs of the public.
Transportation is about getting people from point to point in an efficient and comfortable manner. While there are several different travel modes that can achieve those objectives, the integration of modes into a cohesive and connected system maximally enhances the traveling experience for the user. The Dutch, in addition to their impressive transit network and bike infrastructure, take pride in making it seamless to transition from bike to transit and vice versa. Through the prevalent availability of bike parking at transit stations, the ability to carry on bikes to subways, trams and ferries, and bike minded transit station designs, Dutch citizens are provided with several amenities that facilitate the bike and transit culture.
Figure 1: The view of the Utrecht train tracks from the top of city hall
Dutch trains are reliable and VERY frequent at most stations. In our experience riding on the Dutch transit system, the on-time arrival rate is exceptionally high. That is a big indicator of ridership and satisfaction and is something that Atlanta struggles with sometimes. Having primarily dedicated right-of-way for their transit is likely beneficial for the Dutch as it allows their trains to be on time. With that said, it is surprising to me that the trams are so punctual when pedestrians and bicyclists are frequently crossing the tracks. I am surprised that there haven’t been significant injuries.
Figure 2: Laura is not impressed with this grade-separated train station
The Dutch transit system accommodates and enhances the already well-established bike culture in the Netherlands. In all transit stations we have been to, we have seen large bike parking decks. The people we spoke with are prideful to provide that amenity to their transit riders. We took a tour of the Utrecht transit station bike parking deck that is still under construction, but when completed will have 12,500 bike parking spaces with real-time occupancy numbers. This type of “smart” parking is significant in helping the bike community and makes it more likely that others will shift into that community. The deck also features a bike track that allows riders to stay on their bike until the last moment before they park.
If a rider wants to take their own bike onto the train, they can purchase a bike train ticket. The ticket at the Utrecht station was about 7 Euros. Signage is provided on the actual trains to show where bikes are allowed to be placed and the seats in that car are able to be pushed up so that bikes can be stored while remaining out of the walking path. Although the concept works, the presence of the bikes makes it difficult for people to move around. Some of the Dutch train stations, like Centraal Station in Amsterdam, offer a ramped moving sidewalk that makes it easier for bikers to transport their bikes with them on their way out. In addition to the trains, even the ferries allow bikes, adding to the integrated system.
Figure 3: A small portion of the Utrecht bike parking deck
Overall, the Dutch utilize all their assets to maintain a cohesive system of transit and bike networks. The results are shown in their travel modes split and contribute to their goal of keeping cars out of their cities as much as possible. They recognize the importance of small aspects of transportation that go beyond just infrastructure and prioritize ease of use for all their users. To me, that is what cities should be, people-oriented.
Planning & Culture. Nearly all of the extremely good transit-to-bike (and vice versa) integration as well as the exceptional alternatives to car transportation can be attributed to Dutch planning and culture—where the first is even resultant of the latter. The culture of the Dutch tends to push towards a collective good, sustainability, and a high quality of life—regardless of the spacial limitations of such a small country. Therefore, it is only right for their planning dogma to reflect this culture with the proactive, preventative measures that protect the most vulnerable user in the system while also creating a system that values the time of most vulnerable user as well. With these things taken into account, the transit system and its integration into the transportation system not only creates seamlessness but also encourages its success.
Bikes & Transit
In the Netherlands, their transit system is comprised of trams, buses, and the heavy-rail system. With each mode, the Dutch have understood that the need to integrate the bike infrastructure was crucial for the success of the transit system as well as the solving of the last mile problem. Thus, in each mode, there is a way to connect the bike and the mode most of the time.
Figure 1. Bike to Transit Parking in Zoetermeer
For the buses, there are usually a few bike parking stations connected to the bus stop in order for users—especially frequent users who would come back to that stop to get home—can be more willing to use the buses as well as increase the level of service for more individuals. This is also carried over into the light-rail/tram options where there are also bike stops connected to those stops. However, for a few of the tram/metro transit options--particularly in Amsterdam--there are a few that allowed for bikes to be taken onboard but not during the peak, rush hours. The infrastructure with the heavy-rail—which has more users and higher level of service—is much more robust and attracts more bike users. These stations give a lot of support for bikes to park with the implementation of bicycle garages and parking lots that hold thousands of bikes at one time. Nevertheless, the ability to take your bike on the train is much more hindered by the fact that one must buy a ticket for one’s bike (which is even more expensive than the train ride itself), one must carry one’s bike while on the train, and one must stand with the mass crowd of people in a compact space. Therefore, although it is possible to have your bike on the train, it is very inconvenient for the user, which decreases the likelihood of multiple people doing this.
Figure 2. Bike Parking Facilities in Utrecht
Performance & Reliability.
Yet--with all these things taken into consideration--it is necessary for the Dutch to be able to measure the performance of each system. Throughout the time here, the group had many discussions with native professors and professionals and discovered the multitude of ways that metrics are taken. Some of the things that they take into consideration are the wait times of the passengers, the punctuality of the trains, the amount of ridership, and the projected populations of specific areas. In each presentation, the punctuality and the amount of ridership seemed to be the leading metrics used in order to convey the responsiveness and success of the system.
Figure 3. Tram in Amsterdam
Finally, the Dutch have used these metrics to truly make their transit system reliable. One of the things that they have done in Amsterdam specifically is to create an underground metro line that alleviates the stress on above-ground trams. This has resulted in the decreased need in extremely frequent tram service. Another thing that is done throughout the Netherlands is that the trams have the right of way to all traffic situations which increases the level of service and decreases the need to stop. Additionally, the location of the card tap check-in is located away from the metro and heavy-rail trains to decrease the wait times onto trains.
Planners from all parts of the Netherlands know that transit and bike networks must be integrated if either system is to be truly successful. While most people in the United States see the integration of transit and bikes as a way to solve the “first/last mile problem,” bikes connect Dutch transit users to destinations that may be many miles away.
When using heavy-rail in the Netherlands one can buy a special pass to bring their bikes aboard both heavy and light-rail trains. These bikes have to be held in easily identifiable train cars that have less seats and more room for bikes. To avoid overcrowding, this can only be done during non-peak (rush hour) times. Bringing a bike onboard is more difficult than parking and riding, but if necessary, it can be a breeze. Figure 1 below shows a small bike rack onboard a light rail train in Amsterdam.
Figure 1: Bike parking onboard light rail in Amsterdam
Parking bikes and then riding transit of any kind is very easy. Planners know to place plenty of bike parking within a short walk from transit boarding platforms (mostly less than 1 minute). At main heavy-rail stations, this parking tends to be free for up to a day, guarded, and within a specially-built bike parking facility. Two-level parking fits more bikes while sensors in the racks display the number of empty spots and gives a rough estimate of where the open spots are so that parking and riding is even easier. For less infrastructure-intensive transit modes such as light rail and buses bike racks are provided if a guarded parking garage cannot be. If the bike parking facility needs to be underground, escalators that can be traversed by bikes are used to make the transition between modes even easier. Figure 2 below shows a bike parking garage in Utrecht.
Figure 2: Bike parking garage in Utrecht
The Dutch have a variety of performance metrics that they use in measuring how well their transit systems serve the public. It is also relevant to note that the metrics are used and publicized by various organizations with a stake in the operation of the system. For example the municipal government may publish and keep track of their ridership. The public, however, typically uses their own experiences within a system to judge its performance.
Typical performance measures that the Dutch municipalities, transit authorities, and transit companies employ are:
Transit in the Netherlands typically runs on its own separated and protected path. Heavy rail runs on heavy rail tracks. Light rail runs on light rail tracks with crossings kept to a minimum. Buses either travel on the light rail tracks or in a bus lane. All of these separations ensure that no outside factors will disrupt the transit service meaning that the public can assume that timetables will be followed. Figure 3 shows light rail in Amsterdam with its own separated tracks.
Figure 3: Light rail with designated space in Amsterdam
Another great aspect of Dutch transit development is the responsiveness of planners to the needs of the community. Although it’s not always perfect, planners in the Netherlands consider the needs of the whole community before making a decision on development.
The government is also structured so that a small group cannot stop development if the rest of the community is calling for new transit. Municipalities in the Netherlands are governed by many council people who represent the municipality as a whole, and not a region within. In the United States municipalities are governed by fewer council people who are elected by a small group of people within a region who expect the council person to represent them. Because of this, responding to the needs of the community is more difficult and less effective in the United States than it is in the Netherlands.
The Dutch transit system consists of many elements, including national rail trains, light rail trains (trams), heavy rail trains (metro), and buses. To pay for all of the transit in the Netherlands, the same cards are used for payment (like metro cards for the entire country). The national rail trains connect cities and towns together. Some of the trams also connect small towns to larger cities if the distance is shorter; however, trams tend to be for connections within a city. The metro serves more popular lines within cities and buses fill in the gaps for shorter distances. Bikes are integrated into the overall system at main stations and to serve as the last mile or few miles for people who need to reach the national rail train stations. Some of the more bike-happy Dutch people are even willing to replace a train ride with a bike ride. Here's a picture of a new underground tram station in the Hague.
Tram Station Under a Pedestrian and Bicycle Only Zone in the Hague
Bike parking is a huge element of the national rail train stations since many people use both modes together to reach their destinations. In Delft, we got to experience this, but in Utrecht, the Hague, and Amsterdam, we saw just how large the parking facilities can get. Below are some pictures of just parts of the bike parking we saw. In the Hague, we even had the opportunity to see a bike parking deck that is still under construction. That parking is planned to have over 8,000 bike parking spaces, which is adding to the parking that already exists there. Parking your bike can be pretty difficult sometimes because it is challenging to figure out where empty spots are and then remember where your bike is parked when you return. In the Hague, the new parking is expected to help finding empty spots easier, and in Utrecht the parking had QR codes to help remember your bike's location. All bike parking is free in these locations for at least 24 hours and up to about two weeks.
Bike Parking at Utrecht Centraal Station
Bike Parking Construction Site in the Hague
Bike Parking at Amsterdam Centraal Station
While parking your bike and riding is really what the system is set up for, there are ways to bring your bike on the public transit system sometimes. For long-distance trips, you can buy a ticket for your bike and put it on the national rail trains as long as it is not during rush hour. The Dutch indicate which train cars bikes are allowed in by putting bicycle icons on the doors of the car. On some of the trams, bikes are also allowed. This is indicated at the stops. For the most part, though, it seems that you are encouraged to bike instead of take the tram if you have your bike with you and park at train stations rather than ride with your bike.
Today we had a presentation from Marc Drost, who works for the Amsterdam transit authority. In his presentation, we learned that in Amsterdam, transit performance is measured by headway, capacity, dwell time, mode share, and others. Dwell time is the time that transit is stopped to collect fares, which Marc told us is a very big problem in Amsterdam on the trams. I've found that transit in the Netherlands is very punctual and seems to meet the needs of its users. To make sure transit is on time, the Dutch give trams designated right of way and tend to give them priority at intersections, especially in the Hague. Because the Dutch intertwine their city planning and transportation planning so much, they are able to determine which areas will need more transit and bike and pedestrian infrastructure as the need arises. This varies from our tendency to design transportation reactively in the United States. Overall, I am extremely impressed with the public transit in the Netherlands and how well it connects with bike paths, pedestrian areas, and itself (ex. national rail station to tram transfers). Unfortunately, I cannot see how the United States could use a similar transit model because our land use is much less dense than in the Netherlands and our city planning and transportation planning are not as aligned as in the Netherlands.