The OV-chipkaart with obstacles
This is not what I'm searching for.
Written on 20-10-2010 by Kim87
In the trams in Amsterdam and Rotterdam it's already a normal phenomenon. It will eventually become mandatory everywhere in the Netherlands: travelling with the OV-Chipkaart (Public Transportation Chip Card). Such a general system has many advantages, but also disadvantages. Not being able to or forgetting to check out, fighting with machines and plenty more. Apart from that, travelling will also become more expensive.
Everyone who has travelled by public transportation in the Netherlands has realised it by now. You no longer travel with a bus and tram card or a train ticket; no, these days you have a chip card. A card on which you've put a trip or balance electronically and with which you then check in and out. You check in and out at the doors of the bus, the entrance to the tram stop or at the entrance to the train station. That's the theoretical part.
Travelling with the OV-chip is very convenient. To try it out, it's best to take the bus first; this because you only need a minimum balance of 4 euros and you don't need any weird extra activation via the internet. Checking in is no problem and usually checking out isn't either. If the equipment is broken when you check in, the driver is usually nice enough to offer you a free journey with a: "You can sit down, it's not working." You're happy with a free journey, the driver is happy there's no fumbling with change for a ticket.
It's more bothersome if you've managed to check in, but can't check out. Especially on trips from the big city to the country the machines sometimes stop working because of connection problems. Result: not only the price of the journey is deducted, but the whole four euros. And it can be quite a hassle to get that back.
Once you've built up the trust in the local public transportation, you decide to try the railways. After you've come away empty-handed at least three times while trying to check in at the station because travelling by balance hadn't been activated, you finally go by train.
You're travelling with someone else, because that's fun and after all, you have a discount card for train travelling, which means the other person can come with you with discount as well. Darn it, there's the first problem: your fellow traveller still has to buy a paper ticket. It's not possible yet to have more people travel with a discount on one card. Apart from that you can't travel along with a discount if you have a card without a discount. Gone is the advantage of getting on quickly.
The ticket collector walks past, checks your card, no problems there, he makes a funny comment about the delay of ten minutes and continues walking. Once you get to the last station you're in a hurry, run to the bus and forget to check out. Gone is your money, except now not four, but twenty euros have disappeared.
You can get this back from the customer service, but once again this is a lot of hassle. You'll think twice before travelling with the chip card again next time.
If you check in and out properly, there's no problem. For the NS (the Dutch national railways) the rate is even the same as when you use a regular ticket. A single is actually cheaper: with paper tickets, twice a single is more expensive than a return, while with the chip card a single is exactly half of the return. In that case the chip card is definitely recommended.
It's different if you travel by bus. In many cases the rates of a large bus card of 45 parts are cheaper than the chip card. A journey through two zones (from my work in Utrecht to my house in Bunnik) costs 1.50 euros with the bus card. With the chip it costs me 1.72 euros. So it's still a matter of trying and calculating where it's cheaper with old paper tickets or with the chip. A puzzle in itself, but I find it a bit of a shame.