Monday, 17 November 2014

Rotterdam metro time measurements and giants at the end of the lines

A while ago I was inspired to measure (with a stopwatch on the go) the time it takes for the Rotterdam metro to travel between each and every station , in order to find out which two metro stations are the furthest apart. Before I went through with that plan, however, someone reminded me that I was (literally) inspired by the methodology of a psychopathic metro slasher. The general Rotterdam metro schedule is actually available for download on (in pdf form too). You can get them for lines ABC, line D and line E, listing the times the metro arrives at key stations in the system. These pdfs also include specific scheduling differences during weekends and holidays. Apart from these standard schedules for reference, the live metro schedule is updated every day on the RET site, informing the public on any newly announced changes. The act of getting on the metro and then personally measuring and composing this schedule for yourself is redundant on every practical level.

On a poetic level, however, a worthwhile produce of this personal measurement would be the very experience itself. Measuring metro times can be an exercise that helps you to REALLY take the metro, an exercise that helps to train your attention on the carrying public-transport mechanism itself instead of on other things in the environment and other things on your mind. Watching numbers go up on a stopwatch has a specific effect on how you experience and understand the passing of time. (I wanted to say it's really fast and really slow at the same time, but that's just gibberish though) The metro ride between the stations Portugaal and Tussenwater takes 1 minute and 34 seconds, for example, but WHAT DOES THAT NUMBER MEAN? Try measuring it once for yourself and maybe you'll figure it out. Anyways even if this psycho-poetics is not up your alley, there is no harm in measurement as confirmation. If you really can't spare the effort to perform measurements while travelling on the actual metro, you can also do it while watching these recorded videos of the Rotterdam metros' entire routes.

As for me, my purpose was never in knowing the exact time it takes for the metro to travel between every single station, but rather to FIND the two stations that takes the longest time in between, and therefore the two that are furthest apart from each other. Instead of spending hours with a stopwatch on the carriages, I have approached this in two ways. First, I've checked the schedule on to find the two stations that has the longest time in between: Slinge and Rhoon on Line D. On this schedule the distance takes 5 or 6 minutes to travel, that's more time than between any other two stations in the system. Secondly, I have looked at the Rotterdam metro routes on Google Maps, and through some measurements using the Google MyMaps tools I've determined that truly there are no distance between any two stations greater than the distance between Slinge and Rhoon: 5.25 km (approx).

Only then, as confirmation, did I get on the Metro Line D to travel through those two stations and stopwatch-time it for myself. I did some test measurements in the stations before. The standard is to measure from the moment the metro doors close to the moment they open again at the next station. The final result of the measurement between Slinge and Rhoon was 4 minutes and 43 seconds. This is the longest time it would take to ride between any two metro stations in the Rotterdam metro system. If you wish to perform any activities while travelling on the metro between these two stations, this is approximately the time you can work with in your agenda. Another interesting thing to do during this time may be to listen to a song that's exactly that length. Or maybe play a game of charades? It's 4 minutes and 43 seconds of non-stop travelling in a closed metal box. It's whatever you make of it.

I've never been to the end of Line D (station De Akkers), so when I went out to take the measurement I thought I'd also go on to see what's there. And then at the very end of the metro line I saw two white whales. I definitely wasn't expecting them.

De Akkers

From Google Earth
After some internet research I found out that the sculpture was created by Rotterdam architect Marteen Struijs in 2002, so at least I know where they came from. But the key question remains: what are these things? Power animals? Guardian spirits? Alien intruders? To complete the narrative, I went to the other end of the metro, the far end of Line B at Nesselande, to look for clues.


No whale heads here, but the end of this side of the metros is again situated in water, and maybe that is continuity enough. I think the whales are not guardians or mascots. The whales ARE our metros. Our city is their ocean, and we travel in the bellies of the beasts, under and above grounds, to the day's various destinations. It is at times like these that I wish I've read Moby Dick.

Regardless of whether you've read MD or not, once you have given the metros the characters of living things, travelling with them become that much more fuzzy. It's difficult to lay your emotions on cold metal moving boxes, but it's easier to lay them on warm-bodied mammalian giants if they are willing to share your concerns. There were times where I left some places to catch a metro, but only on the metro did I realize I probably should have stayed. But blaming yourself is the worst. You can blame the White Whales instead. They will let out that all-majestic deep hum, and carry your stupid shit to the end of the lines.

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