12 Reasons that Amsterdam has the best transport system

The map. Image: Gemeentelijk Vervoerbedrijf (GVB).

Last month, a great injustice befell the readers of CityMetric. Accompanied by what I can only assume to be a feeling of collective horror, an article appeared with the accompanying claim that the Lisbon Metro “blows every other transport system out of the water”.

Now, whilst I accept the claim that metros are, indeed, great, as is Lisbon, the author makes one fundamental and catastrophic error. They misidentify which one is, in truth, the best. The best metro does not lie in Lisbon: it lies in Amsterdam.

Here are twelve reasons why.

1. It’s one of the great train maps

It may be true that Lisbon’s map is simple and effective, but the Amsterdam Metro is in a league of its own. Look at it, it’s an elegant but exceptionally straightforward collection without clutter or silly routes (hello, London). It just needs to be a bit longer.

2. You can go on the underground. In Amsterdam

For a city famed for its canals and below-sea-level foundations, the fact that Amsterdam has a series of underground stations is itself quite the achievement. A mixture of bored and immersed tunnels, the newly-opened North-South line runs directly underneath some of the city’s oldest streets.

Even more thrilling is that one of the stations is called Waterlooplein, thereby all-but confirming that Mamma Mia 3 will revolve around a rowdy weekend in the Dutch capital and Colin Firth falling into a canal. 

3. The tickets are accessible and needs-focused

Planning a trip to Amsterdam but you want need free entry to museums and unlimited access to public transport? Get a City Card. Need something a bit cheaper or lasts a bit longer? GVB, the transport authority which operates the metro, has that covered. Because the company operates both the trams and the city’s metro, any ticket you buy is compatible with both, which is a genuine joy when compared to the stuff the UK gets up to.

As with Lisbon, day tickets last for 24 hours. Sort it out, Grayling.


4. One of their station’s doubles up as an archaeological museum

The arrival of the new Noord-Zuidlijn line (North-South) in July 2018 brought with it an unexpected bonus. Around 700,000 objects were uncovered by archaeologists during the construction of the line, with the oldest dating back to 2400BCE.

Each object can be examined on a specialist website, belowthesurface.amsterdam, but that’s not the best part. If you head to Rokin station, close to the centre of the city, you’ll be able to see around 10,000 of the excavated objects on the escalator ride down.

And what’s better than a metro station that’s also a museum? Right? Guys?

5. It opens up access to a part of the city you’ll have never been to

So, you think Amsterdam is essentially just an old town with a few suburbs? Well, turns out there’s an extra part of the city that you’ve almost certainly never been to (unless you’ve studied at Vrije University, or live there).

Zuidas is Amsterdam’s financial district, the new home of the EMA, and almost certainly where half of Canary Wharf is going to end up after Brexit. So… check it out, maybe?

6. It’s surprisingly quiet. And clean

Discounting the bit of winter when snow adorned Europe and nobody could use a bike, riding the metro is a generally spacious affair, to the point where you can actually find a seat. The carriages are even clean and surprisingly enjoyable. Madness.

7. It doesn’t intrude on the city

In spite of the increasing size, the Metro operates largely outside of the urban hub, with stations designed to have a minimal impact on the surrounding area. Instead, it primarily focuses on taking passengers to and from Amsterdam Centraal station and outlying residential areas and major venues such as the Bijlmer ArenA. Because of this, you only ever have to use the metro when you either want or need to, which is exactly how a metro should work.

8. T R A M S

TRAMS! In the Dam Square. Image: Getty.

Yes, trams. As CityMetric readers are hopefully aware, they are like buses but more amazing. Given that only a select few metro lines operate inside the centre of Amsterdam, trams quickly assert themselves as the only practical means of public transport, and the best way to get around if you don’t have a bike.

9. Accessibility is taken care of

Liberalism and inclusivity have long-been seen as Amsterdam’s guiding ideological principles. Every station is therefore designed to cater for disabled access, with specialised information publicly available and step-free access.


10. The in-train maps are a step above

Instead of simply having the boring old maps you get in London, each station is fitted with a little bulb that lights up if it’s on your route, going out once the respective station is behind you. It’s a simple solution that is also a lifesaver if you’re terrible at remembering where you are.

11. It’s in Amsterdam

For starters, Amsterdam is objectively one of the world’s great cities. It’s densely populated but immediately accessible, it has great food, great music, bicycles, great museums, and great architecture, and it’s where all our businesses are going to go after Brexit. It therefore wins by default.

12. It TILTS

Okay, so it doesn’t really tilt. That is, it’s not a full-on rollercoaster. Tilting only occurs for about five-seconds on a Gein branch of the East Line to Isolatorweg, just near Biljmer ArenA. [Editor’s note: That A is actually capitalized. No idea.]

But 1) it tilts, and 2) if you’ve just been to IKEA after a night of writing essays for your MA to replace the mugs you’ve accidentally broken, it’s the best thing on earth.

 
 
 
 

Mayor Marvin Rees' hope for Bristol: A more equitable city that can 'live with difference'

“I call on everyone to challenge racism and inequality in every corner of our city," Bristol Mayor Marvin Rees says. (Matt Cardy/Getty Images)

When the statue of 18th century slave trader Edward Colston was torn from its plinth and dumped in Bristol’s harbour during the city’s Black Lives Matter protests on 7 June, mayor Marvin Rees was thrust into the spotlight. 

Refraining from direct support of the statue’s removal, the city’s first black mayor shared a different perspective on what UK home secretary Priti Patel called “sheer vandalism”:

“It is important to listen to those who found the statue to represent an affront to humanity,” he said in a statement at the time. “I call on everyone to challenge racism and inequality in every corner of our city and wherever we see it.”

48 year-old Rees, who grew up in the city, has since expanded on his approach to the issue in an interview with CityMetric, saying “wherever you stand on that spectrum, the city needs to be a home for all of those people with all of those perspectives, even if you disagree with them.”

“We need to have the ability to live with difference, and that is the ethnic difference, racial difference, gender difference, but also different political perspectives,” he added. “I have been making that point repeatedly – and I hope that by making it, it becomes real.” 


What making that point means, in practice, for Rees is perhaps best illustrated by his approach to city governance.

Weeks after the toppling of Colston’s statue, a new installation was erected at the same spot featuring Jen Reid, a protester of Black Lives Matter. However, the installation was removed, as “it was the work and decision of a London-based artist, and it was not requested and permission was not given for it to be installed”, Rees said in a statement.

Bristol may appear a prosperous city, logging the highest employment rate among the UK’s “core cities” in the second quarter of 2019. But it is still home to many areas that suffer from social and economic problems: over 70,000 people, about 15 percent of Bristol’s population, live in what are considered the top 10 percent most disadvantaged areas in England. 

In an attempt to combat this inequality, Rees has been involved in a number of projects. He has established Bristol Works, where more than 3,000 young people from economically disadvantaged backgrounds are given work experience opportunities. And is now setting up a commission on social mobility. “Launching a Bristol commission on social mobility is not only about social justice; it [should not be] possible for a modern city to leave millions of pounds worth of talent on the shelf, just because the talent was born into poverty,” he says.

The mayor is also a strong supporter of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), explaining that SDGs offer a way to talk about sustainability within a framework of many issues, ranging from climate change and biodiversity to women’s issues, domestic violence, poverty and hunger.

“What we want to achieve as a city cannot be done as a city working alone,” he insists. “We don’t want to benefit only people inside Bristol, we want to benefit the planet, and the SDGs offer a framework for a global conversation,” suggesting that a vehicle should be launched that allows cities to work together, ideally with organisations such as the UN, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund involved. 

Greater collaboration between cities would be “beneficial in terms of economies of scale,” he argues, “as cities could get more competitive prices when buying materials for building houses or ordering buses, rather than each city acquiring a few of them at a higher price.”

In an attempt to focus on the long term, Rees launched One City Plan in January 2019, setting out a number of goals for Bristol to achieve by 2050.

Investing in green infrastructure to meet 2030 carbon emission targets spelled out in the SDGs is a key area here, with the mayor noting that transport, mass transit and energy are important sectors looking for further investment and government funding: “The sooner we meet our targets, the sooner we will benefit from them, and invest in sectors that will provide people with jobs.”

Jobs, especially following the outbreak of Covid-19, are of paramount importance to Rees. Bristol’s council wants to ensure that any government money given to the city will be quickly passed on to businesses to help prevent redundancies, he says, though given that mass job losses seem inevitable, reskilling options are also being looked into, such as through a zero-carbon smart energy project called City Leap.

Another important area for investment in Bristol is affordable housing, with 9,000 homes already built under Rees’s term of office. “People could build a base for life with affordable housing, [and this would mean] their mental health would be better because they have a safe place,” he explains. “Children in families that have a home that is affordable are more likely to able to eat and to heat, [and they are more likely to enjoy a] better education.”

Taken in the round, Rees’s agenda for Bristol is its own blueprint for shaping history. The Colston statue now lies in safe storage, with a local museum likely to play host to the controversial monument. But the Black Lives Matters protestors were fighting for a fairer, more equal future, and it is here where Rees is determined to deliver.

Sofia Karadima is a senior editor at NS Media Group.