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  • Foto van schrijverMira Kaloshi

In Belgium, we excel at finding solutions to mobility problems but struggle with implementing them.



The implementation of the Brussels Region mobility plan Good Move almost led to believe the city's residents were ready to risk it all for the automobile. Brusseleirs still haven't digested the concrete blocks, nor have they in some communes, emotionally recovered from the Greens' inadequate participation projects.


However, a recent study by the VUB, which examined the mobility sentiment of Brussels residents on X, presents a more nuanced picture. According to the people of X, Good Move didn't move as badly after all. Additionally, the growing popularity of the mobility budget in Brussels—a company car alternative—suggests residents are willing to reduce their car usage if better alternatives are available.


We all desire and deserve a capital-city that allows us to breathe, but somewhere along the way, we lost sight of the fact that our capital's well-being is a shared responsibility across all regions. Although innovative solutions to congestion were proposed, they were either inadequately implemented or never put into action.


For example, traffic congestion is not solely caused by Brussels drivers. Every day, 400,000 people commute to Brussels from other regions - a large number by car. Yet, the smart kilometer charge (Smart Move), was deemed unfeasible by some Brussels government parties. This is despite Brussels having the authority to implement it independently, potentially generating 500 million euros for public transport investments. While London is enjoying the benefits of a congestion charge, it is perplexing that in Brussels, even parties who view cars as the enemy have rejected Smart Move.


The far-left views the issue through a socio-economic lens, fearing that an extra charge would disadvantage workers without alternatives. But what if alternatives exist but, once again, have suffered inadequate implementation?


The solution lies in the mobility budget—a fringe benefit that allows employees to exchange their company car for alternative transportation or housing costs. Of the nearly 10,000 Belgian users, 69% prefer housing. This can reduce the number of company cars and make living in Brussels more affordable, benefiting the city's financial health.


In Brussels, the adoption rate of the mobility budget is 2.46%, significantly higher than in Flanders (0.58%). This presents a golden opportunity for the capital.


Take, for example, Emma from Walloon Brabant, who finds a job in Laken. With a mobility budget of 6,500 euros per year, she can either spend the money on alternative transport or, even better for the Brussels region, move closer to her workplace. The budget can be used for her rent or mortgage payments in Brussels, allowing her to cycle to work and simultenously invest in the city and her future.


This mobility budget can thus not only promote alternative transport methods but also make housing more affordable, providing the city with more income from personal taxes and limiting the outflow of professionals to other regions. It’s a clear win-win for Brussels' economy, traffic conditions, employees, and employers.

 

Despite the slow implementation of the mobility budget, there are several challenges. Companies must first offer company cars before introducing the budget, as required by the federal government—a task larger companies handle more efficiently. Additionally, awareness is lacking.

The administrative constraints imposed by the federal government are beyond the region's control. However, over the next five years, the region can focus on raising awareness about the mobility budget and propose a support mechanism for companies with a modest HR infrastructure.


The obstacles to a long-term mobility vision are not insurmountable. Brussels can, just as with security issues, benefit from better cooperation between governments and policymakers. Our capital, which welcomes hundreds of thousands of people daily and fills the coffers of other regions, deserves the chance to breathe. Only a bold mobility vision can heal the lungs and wallet of the city.

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