Amsterdam: IJburg’s Long Term Transit Solution Part 1

16 Dec

IJburg, an island built on reclaimed land 7km South East of Amsterdam, is a victim of its own success. With a blank canvas urban designers and planners mapped out an efficient road network, along the lines of an American block system, then populated the land with individual apartment blocks, shops, business units, canals, wide open green spaces and even a beach! People moved in and with them along came their cars, and this year the island has experienced the familiar growing pain of traffic congestion.

The Bottleneck – “Jan Hoek File”

IJburg has only 2 roads connecting it to the mainland. The primary road links the island with Amsterdam and the city’s orbital motorway, the A10, via the Ennaeus Heermabrug, the secondary route leaves in the opposite Easterly direction towards Muiden. When the Muiden link was opened to traffic in 2009, creating for the first time the potential of a through-route via IJburg, the level of road usage naturally increased.  This year it reached a point where there is now grid-lock every weekday morning with a large amount of traffic trying to access the A10 and Amsterdam. Residents dub this the “Jan Hoek File” and it’s beginning to cause real problems for access. But what are the alternatives?

Understanding the traffic

A lot has been written about the “file” (queue in English) and a local radio and tv station on the island even went as far as interviewing stuck drivers recently.

As far as the road traffic is concerned the first stop is to work out the reason for the traffic build-up. So the following questions need to be answered;

  • What is the destination of the car/freight vehicle?
  • Where has the journey originated? IJburg or elsewhere?
  • When does the journey start?
  • How often is the journey made? (Number of days a week)
  • Why is the journey made by road?
  • When does the build up of traffic start and end?
  • Which directions are people turning in at the busy junctions?

Armed with this information long term solutions can be designed and implemented. An effort to change traffic light sequences and timings has been introduced but that may result in merely moving the file further down the road or elsewhere, not speeding the overall journey time up at all.

The Pressure on Public Transport

Whilst the road traffic has been growing so has the usage of the tram and bus. Tramlijn 26 gets people from IJburg to Amsterdam’s Centraal Station in a little under 20 minutes but it’s already overloaded in the morning. At peak-times the tram runs every 5 minutes which is the most intense service interval of any Amsterdam tram. This is because unlike other services to down-town Amsterdam tramlijn 26 is the only service on 95% of its route and is the only option for most of the travellers wishing to get to Amsterdam. Compounding this pressure is that the tram is perceived to be plagued by reliability problems and along the route is a 1.5km tunnel through which only one tram per direction is allowed to enter at any time. This inserts a mandatory head way limit of 1 minute 40 seconds, the time it takes a tram to travel through the tunnel, so the common site in Amsterdam of many trams travelling closely together down the Damrak doesn’t happen on Tram line 26.

To help the pressure on the tram the GVB, Amsterdam’s municipal transport company, started bus 66 which leaves the island via the Muiden road and goes to the South Eastern suburbs and the Bijlmer Arena railway station. This became fairly popular and now it runs every 10 minutes, but such is the route it takes I doubt it does much to ease the congestion on the road or provide the necessary options people are looking for.

My Proposal – Tramlijn 27

Amsterdam’s vision is to create 3 further islands for IJburg. To cope with the extra amount of journeys this will bring investment needs to be made in transport, and bearing in mind the earlier questions on road usage, here is my proposal. “Tramlijn 27”

Proposed new tram line 27 for Amsterdam

The proposed new tram line 27 for Amsterdam

The proposal requires a new tram line to be built over the Amsterdamsebrug. Although the bridge has a weight limit Siemen’s Combino trams weigh only 10t each. If multiple trams would exceed this limit a signalling system can be installed to restrict movements. The bridge itself was also recently closed for strengthening which should allow greater usage. Apart from that the rest of the route is already laid with tram track for the following routes;

  • Insulindeweg to Linaeusstraat – Tramlijn 7
  • Linaeusstraat to Roelof Hartplein – Tramlijn 3
  • Roelof Hartplein to Zuid/WTC – Tramlijn 5
  • Other tram lines also use sections of the same track listed here.

Journey Times

Calculating journey times from existing routes and allowing a crossing time of 3 minutes over the Amsterdamsebrug (Zuiderzeeweg Halte to Insulindeweg Halte) can expect to see the following;

  • IJburg Eindpunt to Station Zuid / WTC – 35 minutes
  • Zuiderzeeweg Park and Ride to Station Zuid – 25 minutes
  • IJburg to OLVG Ziekenhuis – 20 minutes

New Journey Potentials

The creation of the new route would allow direct connections between

  • IJburg and Amsterdam’s Business District at Zuid/WTC (World Trade Center) currently around 50 minutes to an hour
  • IJburg and the OLVG (the hospital serving IJburg), currently requiring a change at Zuiderzeeweg for bus 37 which only runs 1 x 15 minutes
  • Zuiderzeeweg Park and Ride to Zuid / WTC – currently requiring multiple changes
  • IJburg to Muiderpoortstation/Dappermarkt
  • Amsterdam Oost (East) to Zuid WTC

With this new route comes many various connection possibilities such as the Metro connection at Wibautstraat and the connection with lijn 12 to Sloterdijk which takes place close to Museumplein.


I hold my hand up and say I would not know the costs of installing the tramline across the Amsterdamsebrug, but in effect this would be the only major investment requirement. This investment does bring many benefits though.


The new lijn 27 has the following advantages;

  • Takes away the load stress on Tramlijn 26
  • Avoids the Piet Hein Tunnel offering IJburg citizens an alternative route to/from the island when the tunnel is closed.
  • Provides a public transport alternative to people driving
  • Provides a Park and Ride facility at Zuiderzeeweg, close to the A10, for the Financial District at Station Zuid, good for people arriving from the North of Amsterdam.
  • Direct and easy access to the OLVG
  • Better access for students at the new Zuiderzeeweg residencies to the VU medisch centrum
A link to the route on Google Maps can be found here

Part 2 here – How to build it!

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5 Responses to “Amsterdam: IJburg’s Long Term Transit Solution Part 1”

  1. Baluw ((Stefan Langeveld December 20, 2010 at 12:10 pm #

    Your proposal has 3 problems
    The costs will be prohibitive
    The bridge is too narrow
    We need something n o w, not in five years time.

    Let’s do a trial: switch the traffic lights off.

  2. Aaron November 6, 2012 at 10:03 am #


    Do you contemplate bicycle solutions to improve mobility and accessibility to and from Ijburg? A tramline sounds great but the costs and impacts on the environment are far more than those of providing more routes for bicycle use. What do you think? Thanks, and great site by the way.

    • admin November 26, 2012 at 10:34 pm #

      Hello Aaron. Thanks for the input. I find IJburg fascinating for a number of reasons, but mostly I am curious and interested because despite the new land generation, the transport options to and from the island have quickly reached saturation point as the success of the developments have seen a rapidly growing population. This shows us that even with a blank canvas we need to do more to understand the behavior of commuters. Where will they want to go? How will they want to travel? When do they need to leave and arrive? How frequently do they need to go? These questions are valid because they address the wider geographic area and not just the needs of IJburg locally. Also, as most of the housing appeals to the more wealthy citizens, those same citizens are more inclined to drive than cycle (in my opinion).

      The sustainability and success of IJburg will depend heavily on it’s transport links and how they respond to demand, especially as the construction of the next phase of islands will add to the burden of the tram and road network. I can imagine IJburg is the only suburb of Amsterdam that has only 3 access points.

      I think the development of the tram and the cycle network can go hand in hand. Two cycles on a tram is fairly limited when looking at other public transport networks, but tram 26 is the only tram that accepts cycles, so it’s a matter of perspective.

      I do very much contemplate cycling, and the environmental impact of all options. As IJburg is somewhat unique, a more unique solution is needed compared to stimulating cycling in other parts of Amsterdam (such as a tram that takes a lot more bikes, a bike friendly bus service, or covering the cycleway into Amsterdam to make it more comfortable in bad weather). Battery powered assisted cycles will become more popular in my opinion and as cycle sales are beginning to match car sales we can naturally presume cycle journeys will grow as a proportion of journeys made to/from IJburg. I think a 2nd bridge is needed from the Eastern end of IJburg toward Diemen, yet i wonder, because of the cycling journey time from IJburg to places like the RAI/WTC, whether a faster, higher capacity solution is more cost-effective? What do you think?


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