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.

 
 
 
 

The Fire Brigades Union’s statement on Theresa May’s resignation is completely damning

Grenfell Tower. Image: Getty.

Just after 10 this morning, Theresa May announced that she would resign as Britain’s prime minister on 7 June. A mere half an hour later, a statement from Royal Institute of British Architects president Ben Derbyshire arrived in my inbox with a ping:

“The news that Theresa May will step down as Prime Minister leaves the country in limbo while the clock ticks down to the latest deadline of 31 October. While much is uncertain, one thing remains clear – a no deal is no option for architecture or the wider construction sector. Whoever becomes the next Prime Minister must focus on taking the country forward with policies beyond Brexit that tackle the major challenges facing the country such as the housing crisis and climate change emergency.”

I was a bit baffled by this – why would the architecture profession try to get its thoughts into a political story? But then Merlin Fulcher of Architects Journal put me right:

Well you know construction is a larger contributor to GDP than financial services, and most of the work UK architects do is for export, and at least half of the largest practice (Foster + Partners) are EU, so there's a lot at stake

— Merlin Fulcher (@merlinfulcher) May 24, 2019

So, the thoughts of the RIBA president are an entirely legitimate thing to send to any construction sector-adjacent journalists who might be writing about today’s big news, and frankly I felt a little silly.

Someone else who should be feeling more than a little silly, though, is Theresa May herself. When listing her government’s achievements, such as they were, she included, setting up “the independent public inquiry into the tragedy at Grenfell Tower” – a fire in a West London public housing block in June 2017 – “to search for the truth, so nothing like it can ever happen again, and so the people who lost their lives that night are never forgotten”.

Matt Wrack, general secretary of the Fire Brigades Union, is having precisely none of this. Here’s his statement:

“Many of the underlying issues at Grenfell were due to unsafe conditions that had been allowed to fester under Tory governments and a council for which Theresa May bears ultimate responsibility. The inquiry she launched has kicked scrutiny of corporate and government interests into the long-grass, denying families and survivors justice, while allowing business as usual to continue for the wealthy. For the outgoing Prime Minister to suggest that her awful response to Grenfell is a proud part of her legacy is, frankly, disgraceful.”

A total of 72 people died in the Grenfell fire. At time of writing, nobody has been prosecuted.

Jonn Elledge is editor of CityMetric and the assistant editor of the New Statesman. He is on Twitter as @jonnelledge and on Facebook as JonnElledgeWrites.

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