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Using technology to promote mobility in Brussels

Traffic jams cost Belgium an estimated €25 million per year. Brussels takes the crown, narrowly beating out Antwerp as the most congested city in the country, with drivers in the capital spending an annual average of 82.9 hours in gridlock.

While large infrastructure projects should, in the long term, help alleviate some of the worst bottlenecks, mobility is a growing concern for the business community today. Congestion not only disrupts supply chains but also affects employees’ productivity and quality of life. Technology could, however, offer some ‘quick wins’ for mobility in and around Brussels.

As part of the Smarter Cities Challenge, a team of experts from IBM set out to study the city and its mobility challenges. After three weeks on the ground, the team presented its recommendations to stakeholders in the Brussels-Capital Region on March 12, 2015.

IBM’s recommendations are clustered around four themes: open data, infrastructure, mobility experience and execution/governance. These themes are unified by a focus on the citizen (i.e. individual transport users) and the ‘smart’ or ‘intelligent’ application of technology.

For example, mobile technology could enable the real-time analysis of mobility patterns, while social media could be used to communicate with citizens, again in real time. Technology could also be used to optimize existing infrastructure, with an intelligent traffic control solution or an intelligent traffic light system. IBM did not limit itself to technology-based solutions. Another recommendation concerns the better coordination of mobility actors in Brussels (De Lijn, MIVB/STIB, NMBS/SNCB, TEC, etc.).

And therein lies the particular challenge for Belgium. In Belgium, where responsibility for mobility lies principally with the regions, coordination between the regions and between the federal and regional governments is essential to unblocking the congestion. Mobility requires a long-term vision, but it has to be an integrated vision. Technology can help.

Photo credit: IBM