Urban mobility in Rotterdam: the water taxi as a linking pin in logistics and mobility


Blog by: Martin van der Does de Bye

Rotterdam is my city. The city in which I live, work and recreate. Where I go crazy or grow exasperated in the Kuip football stadium, where I sport and where I meet with friends. In short: Rotterdam is there for me and I am there for Rotterdam. That is the way it feels. “Make that more concrete,” people respond to me when I tell them this. Well, gladly!

Rotterdam: car, bicycle, tram, bus, subway and water taxi operating as a single integrated system
I live on the Maas river. With an astonishing view. The neighbourhood has a multitude of things on offer: diners, cafes, my hairdresser... and – importantly – I can choose between as many as seven different forms of transport if I need to go out. I can pick the car or bicycle to head into town, or just walk out. But I can also take the tram, the bus, the metro or the water taxi. Ample choice. If I want to enjoy the city sights, I go by tram. In case I want to take in the sights of the water and the port? I take the water taxi. Heading out to my sister in suburban Rhoon? I ride the metro.

At the end of the day, all those modes of public transport are joined together into a network of urban transport options in a way that works very well for me. To me, it does not matter who is in charge, as long as it functions as an integrated system. Better yet if everything would connect seamlessly and if I could pay fares using the same payment system everywhere.

Urban mobility: mobility as an element in experiencing Rotterdam
I like to think of my movement across town as part and parcel of how I experience urban life. Not just as going from A to B, but in terms of appreciation of the travel itself. We call this ‘urban mobility’ – and we consider it an inalienable and valuable component of city life. For which ‘we’ as its inhabitants have responsibility. This requires courage, not just from authorities but also from private parties and from ourselves.

The water taxi as an indispensable link in Rotterdam’s urban mobility network
The discussion about the water taxi’s funding is currently ongoing. Doubling its traveller numbers will require investments, as well as adjustments to its current fare structure. This will not be feasible from private commercial exploitation alone. Instead, in situations like this, it is not uncommon to turn to the public authorities for additional financial contributions. And it is not difficult to explain why one mode of transport requires more public subsidy than the other (although sometimes the arithmetic differs). But this discussion is not about figures. The eventual realization of the Erasmus Bridge was not the cheapest solution to connect the north and south banks of the Maas river either, yet the bridge went on to become invaluable to the soul and image of the city. Recent surveys have shown that Rotterdammers are prepared to pay for projects that make the city a better place – if they are asked to.

The water taxi saves travel time, connects lovely places across the city through an intricate service network and will eventually provide clean transport through new hybrid vessels. It belongs here!

Improving the general ‘water taxi’ concept in Rotterdam
But I believe that the government can embed the water taxi more firmly into the development of urban mobility in Rotterdam – through only modest financial contributions. Furthermore I also believe that the ‘water taxi’ concept should be improved, for example through installation of bicycle stands at the water taxi stations and through creating a universal and customer-friendly payment system for all forms of public and private urban transport. My appeal to all involved parties is to think ahead about the next steps. And to be open to all public, private and civic initiatives aimed at making the city better for its people, by its people.

Martin is director and partner at Rebel.