Taking trams through Amsterdam gave me a new perspective on traveling through the city. Previously, I mostly paid attention to the intra–city transit system to avoid getting hit by trams and to keep my tires out of the tracks.
The tram–lines made crossing the entire city quickly a possibility. They seem particularly good for reaching places on the edge of the city that are too close for a train station but exhausting to reach by bike on a daily basis. The subway system has a few lines that cover 3 or 4 of the major outlying areas of the city. Street–cars fill in much more of the city, particularly near the core, and busses extend outward to service the remainder of the city. This hierarchy of denser and denser systems caters to almost all trip distances and gives good coverage throughout the city. It was impressive to see how well coordinated the trams were and how many trams managed to pass even when there was only one track. I personally find the trams system harder to understand than the trains, but that may be because they are used within the cities and I have a better understanding of intercity travel.
After the tram tour we heard a talk from Mark, who works in the department of public transit for the region of Amsterdam. The region of Amsterdam contains the city itself as well as several satellite cities and the airport. In the seventies, Amsterdam was shrinking as people moved to the satellite towns, but by 2010 the population was booming again. The city stopped planning new housing during the economic crisis, so they are now trying to keep up with new demand. This means constructing new housing, building islands for new development, and beefing up the transit system to handle more riders.
The north-south metro line has been under construction for decades and has cost twice its budget. It begins operation next year, so the transit authorities are trying to predict and account for the changes it will make on the city's transit system. Hopefully, it will make trips to the north side of the city much easier, because there are few bridges and the easiest way to cross the water now is by taking a ferry.