Public Transport in the Netherlands: Its Contribution to Solving Accessibility Problems in Urban Areas

Public Transport in the Netherlands: Its Contribution to Solving Accessibility Problems in Urban Areas


A Baanders, ECORYS, NL; P van Beek, S van der Eijk, Goudappel Coffeng, NL


Description of the current contribution of public transport to accessibility in Dutch urban areas. Identification of the potential for improvement using the combined knowledge of experts in the field.


In political discussions about congestion and the accessibility of urban areas in the Netherlands, increasing use of public transport is often advocated as one of the solutions. But, surprisingly, little is known about the role public transport actually plays in the daily movements of people in and around the urban areas of the country. In fact, a consistent country-wide picture of its present role and the potential to increase this, was never made. That is why the Dutch Ministry of Transport took the initiative for a study focusing on the potential of public transport in alleviating urban congestion, starting from the contribution to urban accessibility it presently makes.

The study, carried out in 2007 by Goudappel Coffeng and ECORYS, started by developing an assessment method using data for three regions, from regional transport models and the national transport survey. Whereas most existing studies are concentrating on forecasts of the travel flows in future years, in this study we focused on the present situation, i.e. the ?base years? in the available data. Other important characteristics of the assessment method were:
- a focus on passenger travel in the daily morning peak, as that is the period in which most travel time losses are occurring;
- a focus on the economically most important destinations within the urban areas;
- consideration of all transport modes, including the bicycle, which is important in Dutch urban areas;
- considering travel time differences between the modes as an important choice factor, but including the congestion experienced by car drivers in these time differences;
- a focus on the potential of quick win measures.

The study was done in two steps:
- making a picture of the present situation trough the analysis of data;
- identifying the potential for improvement using the knowledge of experts in the field.
The second step was made in regional workshops, in which the data describing the present morning peak travel patterns were presented to the experts from the urban areas in such a way, that they could easily judge what the effects would be if the conditions would be changed. This presentation method, which was developed as part of our study, will be described in the paper. It was evaluated by the policy makers as being much more transparent than traditional modelling results, which they often see as a ?black box?.

After the first three trail areas, the assessment was applied to nine other urban areas, so all the important Dutch cities and their surrounding regions were covered and a country-wide picture of the morning peak in urban areas and the potential of public transport was made.

The paper will also show the results. On average, public transport is used for 5% of the morning trips studied, the private car being used for most longer distance trips and the bicycle being very popular on the shorter distances. But looking beyond these averages, a market segmentation we made shows that in some segments the share of public transport can be as high as 40%, indicating that different segments should be treated differently. It was estimated that the share of public transport could potentially increase by 15% of its present share, given the right mix of measures. Most of this increase was expected to come from people who change from the private car to public transport, as the suggested measures were mostly concerning flows where the only choice is between those two modes. Large variations exist, however, between regions, market segments and packages of measures.

The experts think the measure with the highest potential is improving the level of service of public transport, i.e. improving journey times, frequencies, route density, regularity, comfort and capacity. Second best is parking policy, as the parking regimes in many business districts still have room for more regulation and higher fees. Other possible measures are mobility management (travel demand management), marketing and a better public transport branding. In the longer run co-ordination between land use and transport planning is seen as very effective. The results also show the importance of policy packages as opposed to isolated measures and stress the need for public authorities to co-operate to achieve this.

The study was part of a series of studies initiated by the Dutch Ministry of Transport on the markets for all transport networks (road, rail, inland waterway) and their capacities. It will use the results to consider the possibilities to reorganise the financing of the transportation sector.


Association for European Transport