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Public transport in Nederland is pretty efficient. If you can't get somewhere by train, you can probably reach it by bus. Arno rides the train for roughly 45 minutes to his job in Zoetermeer each way. It's convenient, then, that he picked a place to live very nearby the train station. It takes about 10 minutes to reach the station if we hustle.

Lately the transit authority has put in what could laughingly be called a new system. The technology is there; we have cards that can be read without even taking them out of your wallet... you just have to hold them up against a reader. This is excellent and quick for busses, but trying to take the train... arg. The system is extremely stupidly designed. First, you pay €7.50 for the chipcard itself. Then you have to put money on it to use. In our case, we were going to the zoo in Amsterdam, so Arno made a chipcard for me, and put €10 or so on it for me. We tried to scan it in. It didn't work. We stood in a line, and found out that the card had to be activated first. Fine. Tried again, card refused to work. Now it wanted us to have at least €20 minimum balance for the train, in case we "forgot" to scan the card at some point, whereupon this fee would be extracted from the card system. So really, the whole things costs €27.50 from the start (which is about as much for Arno and I to go out to eat somewhere nice) AND THEN add enough money to actually get you where you're going. So, we're both irritated at the lies and subversions and inconvenience of the whole thing. Arno rants to me about poor programming when he sees it, and this is a classic case of it.

Actually, my commute time is more like an hour and fifteen minutes in total.

Funny thing is, I wondered for a moment if Beedoo! wouldn't have more negative things to say about the public transpart system here. Because for a while it seemed that she did not only curse our climate by coming here, but also every train she came into contact with. Like the time we went to Ikea in a train where everyone was packed like sardines, and then when we went home there were no trains at all. Granted, this was a severe weather situation, but hardly a good introduction (and kind of surprising to me, even). And then there was the time we also went to Ikea but they were building an overpass somewhere, so they had chartered busses instead of trains. Busses that stopped two streets away from the train station because the attached bus station was under severe reconstruction. And then... Well, you get the idea. Beedoo! is not good for our public transport system, and that's not even counting that picture above. ;)

On the other hand, we had good trips to the Efteling, for instance, and to the zoo. Things do work most of the time. But yeah, the new system. The OV-chipkaart. To be fair, it's hard to set up a completely integrated system that works in all forms of public transport. I can see the need for and the usefulness of the system, and I've always taken to defending the concept. I still defend the concept, but the execution hasd a feel of it of a whole bunch of parties getting together to hammer out a system, and simply lumping all the difficult problems on the one party not present: the users. And isn't that just how software development usually goes? The €27.50 card was bad enough - not so much for me, but not everyone has a good income - but what struck me on top of that was what happened with my card.

See, I have a train subscription. I have a card to show to the ticked controler which entitles me to travel from Haarlem to Zoetermeer and back as often as I want, for a set price each month. It has my picture on it and everything. They send me a new one each year, and the one I now have doubles as a OV-chipkaart, with all the technology involved. So, that's convenient: now I won't have to buy one. So, when going to the zoo in Amsterdam I put money on my card, €20, and go to use it, only to get an error. So we go back to have my card activated as well, since that was likely the problem, and the answer was: we can't. My train subscription, the card that I got only to ride the train, works as an OV-chipkaart in all forms of public transport except for the train!

As a programmer I get it: things are complicated sometimes. But I do wonder if they ever really considered what they were actually foisting on their users as a result. I'm sure everything will be smoothed out in the coming years, and it'll turn into a useful little system. It's already been useful when a few days ago I could not take the train back from work because someone jumped in front of the train elsewhere (always sad). I haven't given up hope yet.

Anyway, as for public transport: The Netherlands apparently has the highest train density on its train tracks in all of the world. How's that for an unexpected claim to fame, huh?

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