Rail Photo of the Month: April 2019

Alstom Regio Citadis 40092

Alstom Regio Citadis 4009

Location: Centraal Station, The Hauge, Netherlands
Operator of Vehicle: HTM Personenvervoer
Date of Photo: June 4, 2008

Due to the relatively small size of the Netherlands and its high concentration of cities, there can be a lot of different transit operators and services in a single city.  One example of this is The Hauge, where the primary transit operator is HTM Personenvervoer and most vehicles there sport HTM liveries.  However, the two tram lines operated by HTM that connect The Hague and Zoetermeer use vehicles in a special RandstadRail livery, such as the one pictured here, despite being operated by HTM.  To make matters even more confusing, Line E of the Rotterdam Metro is also considered to be part of RandstadRail, even though it is operated by Rotterdam’s Elektrische Tram (RET), the Rotterdam transit agency.  Confusing?  Perhaps, but it certainly makes for an interesting time for any transitfans traveling through the area and looking to see a variety of livery, vehicle types, and service offerings.

For more photos of trams in The Hauge, please click here.

Out with the Strippenkaart, In with the OV-chipkaart

Since 1980, the same ticket can be used on both this tram in Rotterdam and the Metro in Amsterdam (pictured below)

With the advent of smart cards and “open payment systems”, some might be wondering how long it will be before individual transit fare cards for each city are replaced by a single card that can be used anywhere.  In the Netherlands, that day came over 35 years ago.  Six years earlier, the the government standardized transit rates (as opposed to letting individual cities set their own rates).  When the “strippenkaart” (literally meaning strip ticket) was introduced in October of 1980, a single ticket could be used on pretty much any non-NS transit vehicle in the entire country.  You just had it stamped by the driver or conductor or at a validator for the number of zones you were going to travel.  When you ran out of strips, you had to get a new ticket.  This was the system that was in place when I was in the Netherlands for the first time in 2008, and I used my strippenkaart throughout the country during the four days I was there.

However, even during that visit, things were starting to change.  The country was starting to move to smart card technology and began to gradually introduce the OV-chipkaart over the span of several years.  An initial beta test of the technology was conducted on the Rotterdam Metro in 2005, and the OV-chipkaart was the only fare media valid on that system by the time I was there in 2008.  By mid-2010, all Rotterdam and Amsterdam fares were paid with OV-chipkaart, and the strippenkaart was phased out incrementally in the rest of the country by November 2011.

Since the Dutch national tariff system is still zone based, passengers must not only tap their OV-chipkaart at the start of a journey, but also when they exit a vehicle.  If transferring, they must tap in again on the second vehicle and the card calculates the appropriate fare.  However, in order to ensure that travelers have enough money on their card for a long trip, a minimum of 4 EUR (4.42 USD at the time of this writing) is required to board a bus, tram, or metro and 20 EUR (22.12 USD) is required for a trip on NS, and one cannot board if only a lesser amount is available on the card.  It also costs 7.50 EUR (8.29 USD) just to purchase the card itself, which is more expensive than most other places that require you to purchase your transit card.  By comparison, Smartrip in Washington, DC is 2 USD, a Metrocard in New York City is 1 USD, an Oyster in London is 3 GBP (3.,97 USD), an anonymous Rav-Kav in Israel is 5 NIS (1.29 USD), and a personalized Rav-Kav is issued at no cost.

The old strippenkaart were not valid on Dutch railway trains (Nederlandse Spoorwegen), however the OV-chipkaart is now valid on NS and paper tickets are no longer available for travel within the Netherlands (paper tickets are required for international travel).  Like with the buses and trams, one must tap in and tap out at the start and end of a train journey.

In theory, the idea of a nationwide farecard is a nice idea, and I think such things will become more common as time goes on.  However, for someone only spending a few days in the Netherlands, the OV-chipkaart has a high upfront cost, requires high balances in order to be valid on all modes and especially intercity trains (a bit of an issue for those hoping to have a zero balance after traveling to Schiphol Airport at the end of a trip), and finding out about tourist passes is difficult.  I’m impressed at the Netherlands’s ability to set up a nationwide ticketing system in the 1980s and the fact that they updated it to be a smart card system in recent years, but the ease of use, especially for visitors, could be improved.  However, as “open payment systems” that allow the use of credit cards or smartphones as fare media become more widespread, perhaps the upfront costs for tourists can be eliminated as those technologies are introduced.

Blurred Lines No More

Siemens Combino 2077 on Rozengracht at Prinsengracht, Amsterdam, NL, May 30, 2016

A few weeks ago, I posted a blurry photo to Facebook that would be a part of the recent website update as a tease, asking if anyone could identify where the photo was from despite the blurry image.  Here is the image in its original form.  The photo is of a Siemens Combino tram in Amsterdam.  The trams form the backbone of the city’s transportation system and are found on many major thoroughfares in the city center.  These streets wind quite a bit due to the city’s layout, which means there are ample opportunities to get photos of the trams with the iconic row-houses as a backdrop giving the photo a sense of place.  I also like the GVB tram livery.  It might be a bit plain (you can think of the NYCTA’s simple blue stripe on a white vehicle as an example of a comparable paint scheme in the US), but I think it looks crisp and sharp, makes the trams easily identifiable on the street, and makes them stand out in photos.  In addition, I really like the way the vertical lines of the tram’s window frames and articulated joints and the row houses are so distinct, while the trees create a break up these otherwise rigid boundaries and the many straight lines in this photo.

Now that the location of this photo has been shared, expect to see some more “Viewfinder” posts with photos from my recent trip to Amsterdam as well as other places I’ve visited in the past few months in the days and weeks to come.

OTP Updated with New Sections, New Photos!

Gillig Phantom 6031 on Bellefield Avenue at Fifth Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA, November 27, 2015

Astute visitors to Oren’s Transit Page may have noticed that the July 2016 Bus Photo of the Month was from a city that had never been featured on this website before, nor had there been any announcement that a new section had been unveiled.  As is often the case, it took me a bit longer than I had hoped or planned, but I added a whole slew of new photos to Oren’s Transit Page last week and decided to feature one of the new photos as a photo of the month before the “public announcement” for the update.  Perhaps you discovered the new content via your own exploration, and perhaps not.  But either way, here is a fairly exhaustive (albeit not 100% complete) list of what got added in this update.

This update includes photos from two places I had never been before until recently.  The first new section is the Pittsburgh section.  I was in Pittsburgh for a few days in November of 2015 and while my transit riding was limited to a short jaunt on the light rail and a ride on the Duquesne Incline, I still got a decent number of photos of those modes and the local bus system’s colorful buses as well.  One of them was featured as the aforementioned Bus Photo of the Month for July.  I plan on using some upcoming “Viewfinder” features to share some of the stories behind the photos I took in the Steel City.

Orion VII 2010-06 on Paseo Gilberto Concepción De Gracia at the Covadonga Terminal, San Juan, Puerto Rico, March 21, 2016

The second new section isn’t just a new city but also marks the first time Oren’s Transit Page has photos from the Caribbean!  I was in Puerto Rico for a week in March and in addition to riding San Juan’s Tren Urbano, I also rode and got photos of the local bus system in San Juan, the Autoridad Metropolitana de Autobuses de Puerto Rico (AMA).

I spent about 48 hours in Amsterdam about a month ago, it was my first trip to the Netherlands since 2008.  Unlike my last trip, I didn’t travel to other cities in the country.  However, I still got plenty of photos of the various trams currently operating there, the new M5 Series cars on the Amsterdam Metro, and the city’s buses.  I also got some photos of Nederlandse Spoorwegen trains and the Thalys while on my way to and from the airport.

A number of pages within the Israel section are updated, with a handful of brand new additions in this part of the website, too.  You can find photos of the new MAN NL-323F and MAN NG-363F 5 door articulated buses in both Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.  There are also new photos of Afikim, Metropoline and Kavim buses in the Tel Aviv area, and Egged intercity buses from throughout the country.  Of course, no update to the Israel section would be complete without an update to the Jerusalem Light Rail gallery, and a number of light rail photos from this update are also planned for upcoming Viewfinder features.  Last but certainly not least, there are also updates to the Israel Railways galleries.

Type 12G 819 on Damrak, Amsterdam, Netherlands, May 31, 2016

In an ongoing effort to make Oren’s Transit Page as accurate as possible, all references to WMATA’s New Flyer DE42LFA and DE62LFA buses have been updated to call these buses New Flyer DE40LFA and DE60LFA buses, respectively.  This is in order to have the captions on this site match the builder’s plates on board the buses. (It is acknowledged that other websites and internet sources refer to these buses by the former designations, and it is unlikely that the entire internet will coalesce around a single designation anytime soon.)  Additionally, some photos of MAN intracity buses in the Israel section that had been referred to as NL-313s have been corrected to be NL-323Fs for while the differences between these models are slight, they are different models and should be noted accordingly.

As I mentioned several times, I am planning to feature the stories behind a number of photos from this update in addition to older photos from throughout Oren’s Transit Page here on the Travelogue as part of the Viewfinder series.  In addition, I have several system reviews planned of cities I have been to recently.  Needless to say, you should be sure to check back for all that and more!  If you’re a fan of Oren’s Transit Page on Facebook, you’ll get site updates right in your news feed, so be sure to click “like” if that interests you!