How liveable will Brussels be in 2050? VUB researchers explore prospects

Scenario one, United Great Brussels (Remobilise)
Scenario one, United Great Brussels (Remobilise)

VUB researchers have drawn up four possible scenarios for everyday mobility in Brussels in 2050. The Remobilise project is being carried out by the Mobilise research group and is funded by Innoviris, the Brussels agency for technology and innovation.

"The future doesn’t always develop as we expect," says Sara Tori, PhD researcher at Mobilise and one of the authors of the Remobilise project. "The recent pandemic reminded us of this. So we cannot rely on singular visions. We must consider multiple avenues and prepare for each option. With our scenarios, we can better anticipate and improve the resilience of our cities."

The researchers wanted to explore a wide range of possibilities for future mobility in Brussels, so they used a combination of participatory methods to develop four scenarios. Through surveys of 51 experts including public transport operators MIVB and TEC, the Port of Brussels and the Federal Public Service Mobility and Transport, they identified a number of variables, such as the future popularity of e-commerce or the use of public transport. "During the health crisis, the use of public transport dropped dramatically," says Tori. "For our study, we considered both an increase and a decrease in the use of trains, trams and buses by 2050."

From the surveys, four possible pathways emerged, which were explored further in workshops. Seventeen stakeholders, including the Netwerk Duurzame Mobiliteit (Sustainable Mobility Network), the cycling association Fietsersbond and the pedestrian initiative Walk.Brussels gave their thoughts on what daily mobility in Brussels will look like in 2050.

Their inputs were processed into four scenarios representing the daily routines of four characters from different socio-demographic groups. The characters differ in age, place of residence, marital status, number of children, occupation and income. A resident of Oudergem with a high income and three children has different needs than an 18-year-old student from Sint-Gillis. During the workshops, participants were asked to imagine a day in the life of the characters, reflecting on their mobility requirements.

In scenario one, United Great Brussels, Antoine, 42 and a father of three, takes the hyperloop train to Waterloo during his lunch break to play sports. In this scenario, the city centre is very densely built-up with little space for greenery. The hyperloop train reaches very high speeds and gets Antoine to his destination quickly and efficiently. In scenario two, Maxi Freedom, he uses the local gym in a converted metro station. Public transport is barely used in this scenario due to ongoing security problems.

The publication of the scenarios is a major milestone for the Remobilise project. For the next step, the team are working on a portfolio of policy measures to address the challenges set out in their scenarios. A Remobilise software tool will be released at the end of 2024, to generate urban mobility policy actions based on user-specified conditions. With this tool, the researchers are directly addressing policymakers.