HTM: Public Transport in the Hague

How the public transit company plans to appeal to more passengers

We spent the morning visiting HTM, the company that organizes the majority of public transit infrastructure in and around the Hague through tram, lightrail, and bus systems. Appropriately, they are headquartered in Den Haag Centraal (the main train station in the Hague) and those of us who didn’t arrive by bike traveled there using their public tram system from the train station by our hotel, Den Haag HS. A representative of the company, Hans van der Stok, led us through a presentation that introduced us to the company and outlined their current infrastructure as well as their plans to make public transit more accessible, sustainable, and appealing.

Den Haag Centraal, the Hague’s main train station, also the location of the entrance to HTM’s headquarters.

HTM currently operates 72 trains, 129 trams, and 115 buses to meet the needs of over 275,000 passengers each day to connect them from the Haaglanden region, including the Hague and Delft, to the port city of Rotterdam. Additionally, the company supports the development of private transport in the Randstad region, which includes Amsterdam as well as the Hague and Rotterdam. Each year, passengers accumulate over 480 kilometers of travel using HTM public transit, a number that is expected to rise in the coming years, especially as the company attempts to improve the perception of public transit in the Netherlands.

Our presenter speaks with professor Cor Rademaker before the presentation begins.

HTM estimates that passenger appreciation of the public transit system is around 7.5 out of 10, but there remains a certain stigma around the use of public transit in the Netherlands that the company is trying to overcome in order to encourage more people to use it. In order to do this, HTM is attempting to enhance the quality of their buildings and stations to improve the perception of the public transport system and the people that use it. Therefore, HTM has begun focusing on the iconic value of their transportation infrastructure, or the aesthetic and symbolic value the public assigns to them. The more iconic value their infrastructure has, the more likely people will be to use it.

Inside one of HTM’s public trams, accessible with a chipcard.

HTM also related their plans to meet the Dutch policy of climate neutrality in the next few decades: much of their train and tram system is already electric, but by 2025 they also plan to retire their existing buses with combustion engines and replace them with an entirely electric fleet. They also stressed the importance of sustainability in their “5xE” model emphasizing the importance of public transport in improving five pillars of city life: equity, effective mobility, efficient city, economy, and the environment.

The view from the HTM headquarters overlooking the Hague.

HTM also discussed their role in managing the mass influx of data they receive in order to improve the planning of their transit systems to match service level to demand, as well as using their data responsibly to avoid invading their customers’ privacy. Today the company is able to derive data from the PT-chipcard their passengers use to board their transit systems, and they are able to determine the number of trips per passenger, their boarding time, their origin and destination, and more. However, HTM stressed that they do not sell this data and abide by very strict laws that permit them access to only a certain number of their passengers’ data and prevent them from divulging the name or address of the passenger who owns an individual chip card.

An example of one of HTM’s chipcards needed to access their public transit. This can be used to board trains, trams, and buses in and around the Hague.

-Amanda Peele