Let me start with a confession first. I am not a fan of public transportation. Never have been and never will be! I can tell you all of the reasons like their lateness and unreliability, the dirtiness and the unfriendliness of the personnel etc. But I am going to spare you all of that. As with everything in life, there are always exceptions to general rules. This positive exception are the RET trams and metros in Rotterdam. As a well-travelled Afropean, I have used public transport in virtually every European city. I can say unabashedly that the Rotterdam tram/metro division of RET is by far the best. And not by a bit!
Unlike the others, the main philosophy seems to be that the traveller needs to enjoy the experience. So RET does everything possible to make the journey a great one. They do such a great job that the travellers just take it as normal. This is a big compliment for the staff of the RET. From the matrix boards at every stop that informs you of when your tram/metro is due, to the conductors and drivers (some of whom sometimes unwittingly entertain the travellers with their announcements and/or pronouncements), a trip with the RET trams is never boring or cumbersome. How can it be when every time you board one of those trams or metros it feels like you are on an unending sight-seeing tour of the beautiful monuments and landscapes around the city of Rotterdam?
The passengers are treated with respect. The workers seem to enjoy what they do. As I am writing this, I am sitting in tram 23 going to catch a connection with another RET metro going to The Hague. The atmosphere in the tram is how it is always. The conductor goes around checking if everyone has checked in (i.e. paid for their trip). There is always the odd person who has forgotten to check in or buy a ticket. The conductor does not make a fuse. There is no hardness of attitude or trace of accusatory look from the conductor. She just does her job and the passenger buys their ticket without feeling like being looked at as a potential “black rider!”
She helps to check in where the passenger has their public transportation card or she asks the passenger to pay their fare which they do. She assists the old lady to her seat, plays a little game with a toddler and playfully asks an 8 year old if he wanted to be her assistant for the day.
This is a scene replicated in every tram run by the RET in Rotterdam. Of course there is the unannounced ticket control by RET carried out with military precision. If you are caught without a ticket you get a hefty fine which is how it should be.
When people take your punctuality, your customer friendliness, the comfort and cleanliness of your trams all for granted then you know you have won a place in their hearts. And you have won their respect too even if they don’t often express it.
Oh one more thing! All the trams and metros in Rotterdam have free Wi-Fi! I have certainly not seen that in all the cities and countries I have visited so far. It is so normal we take it for granted. The reason I am taking the metro instead of the Intercity train to The Hague is that the Wi-Fi in the train sucks while that in the RET metro is excellent for the price.
RET thank you for providing a great service without any fuss. Now let me sit back and enjoy the view, the diversity of the passengers, the fun and the ride!