Brussels public transport popularity grows at weekends and off-peak

Brussels public transport popularity grows at weekends and off-peak
Gare Centrale metro stop, Wednesday 23 February 2022 in Brussels. BELGA PHOTO DIRK WAEM

While the overall number of passengers on the Brussels public transport network operated by STIB remained below pre-pandemic figures in 2022, its popularity is rising outside working hours, with more people using it in their spare time.

In 2022, STIB clocked in 337.7 million passengers – 23% more than in 2021, but still just 79% of 2019 figures. At the start of the year, passenger levels were lower due to public health measures, but these were relaxed over the months and passenger numbers rallied.

"By the end of the summer, tram, bus and metro traffic reached 84% of 2019 levels," STIB noted in a press release. "The return to normal was especially noticeable during off-peak hours and weekends. Since May, passenger numbers during these periods have regularly exceeded 2019 levels, especially on Sundays, early mornings and evenings (from 22:00 onwards)."

Last New Year's Eve, the number of passengers reached 115,000 compared to 114,000 in 2019. This confirms that travellers increasingly see STIB as an attractive and efficient way to enjoy city life."

With the most developed public transport network in Belgium, it is no surprise that its popularity is higher in the Brussels region than anywhere else in the country. An annual mobility barometer recently carried out by HR service provider Acerta, showed that cars in Brussels lost ground to trams, buses and metros.

Electric buses and new fares

STIB also announced on Thursday that in light of the current energy crisis, it will diversify its vehicles to be less dependent on fluctuations in energy prices – especially fossil fuels.

"The conversion to an electric bus fleet is still gaining ground. We are ordering 94 new electric buses this year with delivery scheduled for late 2024 / early 2025." STIB is adapting its depots for electric buses and equipping its termini with fast-charging stations.

STIB is ordering 94 new electric buses this year. Credit: STIB

Meanwhile, the new generation trams (TNG) – which are reportedly more comfortable, spacious and accessible – will carry the first passengers in 2023; four additional M7 vehicles will be added on metro lines 1 and 5. Currently, 18 such new vehicles are in service.

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Finally, a new type of fare will be introduced on 1 February which allows people to purchase one ticket for 75 rides, which "offers more flexibility to people who combine working from home with two to three round trips a week on Brussels public transport." From July 2023, over-65s in Brussels will be able to enjoy an annual season ticket for €12, as is already the case for students and young people.

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