CLOSE
Bert Knot via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 2.0

There Are Almost No Roads in Giethoorn, Holland, Just Waterways

Bert Knot via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 2.0

Venice may be the world’s most famous canal city, but it’s not the only one. Giethoorn, a town of 2600 people in the Netherlands, has almost no roads. Holland’s “Little Venice” only has canals, according to Travel + Leisure.

PhotoBobil via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 2.0

Amsterdam may boast dozens of miles of canals, too, but most of the quaint village of Giethoorn, by contrast, is almost only accessible by boat. The town was built by harvesters of peat, a fertile mixture of decaying vegetation found in bogs, and as they dug out the peat, lakes and ponds formed. Thatch houses were built up on the islands between them, and residents could only traverse the town by narrow boats called punters.

You can get around by walking across the 170-plus bridges between the islands, but the best way to see the town is still by punter. You can rent boats and canoes for as little as $8 an hour.

Giethoorn is now a major tourist destination for travelers from Asia—it receives around 200,000 Chinese tourists a year. And now that Giethoorn has a spot on the new international edition of Monopoly, it might be poised for an even bigger tourism boom.

CrazyFunk via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 3.0

[h/t Travel + Leisure]

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Michael Gottschalk, AFP/Getty Images
arrow
environment
Germany Wants to Fight Air Pollution With Free Public Transit
Michael Gottschalk, AFP/Getty Images
Michael Gottschalk, AFP/Getty Images

Getting people out of their cars is an essential part of combating climate change. By one estimate, getting people to ditch their two-car household for just one car and a public transit commute could save up to 30 percent in carbon dioxide emissions [PDF]. But how do you convince commuters to take the train or the bus? In Germany, the answer may be making all public transit free, according to The Local.

According to a letter from three of Germany's government ministers to the European Union Environment Commissioner, in 2018, Germany will test free public transit in five western German cities, including Bonn. Germany has failed to meet EU air pollution limits for several years, and has been warned that it could face heavy fines if the country doesn't clean up its air. In a report from 2017, the European Environment Agency estimated that 80,767 premature deaths in Germany in 2014 were due to air pollution.

City officials in the regions where free transport will be tested say there may be some difficulty getting ahold of enough electric buses to support the increase in ridership, though, and their systems will likely need more trains and bus lines to make the plan work.

Germany isn't the first to test out free public transportation, though it may be the first to do it on a nation-wide level. The Estonian capital of Tallinn tried in 2013, with less-than-stellar results. Ridership didn't surge as high as expected—one study found that the elimination of fares only resulted in a 1.2 percent increase in demand for service. And that doesn't necessarily mean that those new riders were jumping out of their cars, since those who would otherwise bike or walk might take the opportunity to hop on the bus more often if they don't have to load a transit card.

Transportation isn't prohibitively expensive in Germany, and Germans already ride public transit at much higher rates than people do in the U.S. In Berlin, it costs about $4 a ride—more expensive than a ride in Paris or Madrid but about what you'd pay in Geneva, and cheaper than the lowest fare in London. And there are already discounts for kids, students, and the elderly. While that doesn't necessarily mean making public transit free isn't worth it, it does mean that eliminating fares might not make the huge dent in car emissions that the government hopes it will.

What could bring in more riders? Improving existing service. According to research on transportation ridership, doing things like improving waits and transfer times bring in far more new riders than reducing fares. As one study puts it, "This seldom happens, however, since transport managers often cannot resist the idea of reducing passenger fares even though the practice is known to have less impact on ridership."

The same study notes that increasing the prices of other modes of transit (say, making road tolls and parking fees higher to make driving the more expensive choice) is a more effective way of forcing people out of their cars and onto trains and buses. But that tends to be more unpopular than just giving people free bus passes.

[h/t The Local]

nextArticle.image_alt|e
David McNew, Newsmakers/Getty Images
arrow
This Just In
The World's Most Congested City Is Right Here in America
David McNew, Newsmakers/Getty Images
David McNew, Newsmakers/Getty Images

Los Angeles is famous for its clogged freeways, but even Angelenos might not realize just how justified their complaints about sitting in traffic are. Not only does L.A. have the worst traffic in the U.S., it has the worst traffic in the world, according to an international study spotted by Travel + Leisure.

It’s the sixth time that L.A. has topped the INRIX Global Traffic Scorecard, an annual analysis of traffic across 1360 cities in 38 countries. INRIX, a Washington-state-based company that provides transportation and connected-car analytics, found that in 2017 the average Angeleno spent 102 hours sitting in traffic jams during peak hours. This idling time likely cost these drivers around $2800 in extra fuel over the course of the year, making traffic a waste of more than just time.

Los Angeles obviously isn’t the only city with bad traffic. Both Muscovites and New Yorkers sat in traffic for 91 hours over the course of the year. New York’s Cross Bronx Expressway was named the most congested single roadway in the country, with drivers spending 118 hours per year stuck on the 4.7-mile-long roadway. Five of the 10 top cities for traffic congestion were located in the U.S. as San Francisco (5), Atlanta (8), and Miami (10) all made the list.

On the bright side, there’s reason to think that L.A., at least, will eventually clean up its highways a bit, freeing up some time for its car-bound residents. Despite its reputation as a city without reliable transit options, L.A. has made some big strides in the last few years when it comes to expanding public transportation. The city is pushing particularly hard to open 28 new transit projects before the summer Olympics come to town in 2028. Unfortunately, it’s still far from having a super user-friendly transit network—despite its expansion projects, the system is currently losing riders. Looks like it may be a while before everything's moving in the right direction.

[h/t Travel + Leisure]

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios