Though I don’t really enjoy traveling by plane, Kyoko and I always note how wonderful it is to return to Schiphol Airport, far and away the best airport we know. It’s attractive, well marked and human in scale. There’s interesting art, pleasant lounges and acceptable restaurants. There are seemingly never lines or confusion and our luggage is usually on the baggage claim conveyor within moments of arriving. A few meters walk and a spacious elevator downstairs and we’re on a train to Amsterdam Central where another few meters walk brings us to tram 13 which stops in front of our house: 30 minutes from terminal to home in the city center. Thanks Amsterdam. You rock.
We test the public transport systems everywhere we go, sometimes to save money and sometimes out of morbid curiosity. Getting from the airport in Washington DC to Manhattan would fall into the morbid category. What could have been a few hour drive turned into an expensive all day adventure of ad-hoc shuttle buses, waiting for hours in train stations, broken down trains and struggling to drag luggage though New York’s horribly outdated and inaccessible subway system.
During this trip we sampled San Francisco and New York (JFK) again, this time with 8 month old Pascal in his carriage. With Sky Trains finally linking both airports to metros and trains things have improved considerably. But then again improvement is always easy when beginning with nothing. Just a fistful of comments:
The fit, unencumbered and intrepid urban warrior can pretty quickly get around most of New York City in this extensive but hopelessly inhumane system. The shameful condition of the stations and non-Manhattan trains I can accept but the inaccessibility of it all is a bad joke. Try getting around the boroughs as a visitor, with a baby and/or luggage and you’ll understand what I mean: terrible and often misleading signage, large elevation differences and generally no working elevator or even escalator, very narrow turnstiles and not always an attendant to open the gates…
New York: charge lots of money for parking and on all of the bridges and shove that money right into building cycling infrastructure, traffic calming and massively overhauling the subways. As a result fewer people will drive reducing the costs of road maintenance, and subway ridership will increase massively increasing revenues.
The shiny new Air Train here connects directly to BART which goes right to the city. So far we’re in Euro performance territory here. But then it somehow just ends… before we’ve even really gotten into the city. That great BART metro runs along the southern edge of the city and then from there it’s just a ragtag collection of buses and Munis to serve the city. We actually walked up the hill to our hotel in Nob Hill along the bus line on late weekday afternoon. After 30 minutes pushing a baby carriage, towing a suitcase and wearing backpacks we arrived at the hotel… not a single bus had passed us, nor did one go by while we checked in.
SF: You’ve a lovely city but it’s terrible to get around. Charge lots of money for parking, institute some form of congesting pricing and put tolls on the bridges. Use the money to build a public transport system that actually goes through the city. Much of SF is lightly trafficked and/or too hilly for practical cycling so building cycling infrastructure should be relatively easy and cheap.
See? Everybody can be an urban planner as long as they needn’t show any results.