We asked the people of Leuven if they would like to have a sensor in their window – it was entirely voluntary. In that regard the neighbourhoods and the citizens are actively involved in collecting data
“We can use this data to balance the discussion and explain to the inhabitants there is actually no problem on your streets because it's only a relatively small amount of cars, and another perfectly comparable street in that neighbourhood has 10 times more traffic there and it’s they that have a problem. WeCount gives us a way of fine-tuning traffic models and nuancing the discussions on mobility andtraffic, which is always in an emotional and emotive subject.”
As for what will Leuven look like in five years time, in the smart mobility sense, Asperges has an unsurprisingly clear vision.
“The biggest challenge in any city is lack of public space,” he notes. “We are using technology to help us to optimise it. In any city, private car ownership, and parking your car on the street is one of the most difficult and the most emotional issues – so do we go about thinking of down-scaling the amount of private car parking places? Within the context of climate and other issues, there is a high demand on our public spaces so what we are doing now is dedicating some of the public spaces to things like cargo bike sharing.
“We explicitly decided that we don't want free-floating sharing systems. We give dedicated space to these kinds of shared mobility services because that's the highest service level we can offer through shared mobility,” he maintains
A PROBLEM SHARED
Shared mobility is clearly one of Leuven’s keys to minimising the pressure placed upon on-street parking.
“We’re going further than that though, as we are trying to use parking places in a dynamic way. There is a project that Leuven is involved in within EIT Urban Mobility called FlexCurb in which we are doing group management where at certain times of the day the city logistics operators can use that parking place to make deliveries and at other times of the day it’s a parking place for residents or visitors,” he explains. “One parking place is used in the most efficient way for different kinds of activities, and we are installing sensors that use platforms to give a guarantee to the logistics partner that they have a reserved parking slot. In this way we can optimise the parking domain.”
We are installing sensors that use platforms to give a guarantee to the logistics partner that they have a reserved parking slot
Among a whole raft of other new developments on Leuven’s horizon there is a dynamic access control initiative: put simply, if you’re not driving a low-emissions vehicle you don't get into the city, and a leading role, together with IMEC, in the TOKEN project that seeks to capitalise on the transformative impact of Blockchain technologies in public services. A third example another logistics-based initiative that sees local goods getting priority treatment.
Says Asperges: “If local goods are being brought into or out of the city, they get more access rights that if they were goods that come from China, for example. In TOKEN we have a rule engine where the data of goods from a logistical partner come into our platform - the platform will give more of less access rights depending on the. The higher the score in sustainable logistical transport, the more access rights they get from us to do the delivery in the city. These are things where technology is going to help us to organise our city in a smart way or in a smarter way.”
Leuven’s status as, arguably, the smartest city in Belgium is all the more remarkable when you consider its transport department’s humble beginnings.
I have worked for the city of Leuven for eight years now, but when I started there was no transport department. I was the transport department
“I have worked for the city of Leuven for eight years now, but when I started there was no transport department. I was the transport department,” he emphasises with a modest half-smile. “But now I have a team of around 15 employees. If I compare it to a city like Ghent, their transport department has about 140 people working there! We have to be very clever with a very small team where we can make an impact and probably you don't see us on the circuit talking about what we are doing – we’re out there doing it.”
SHIFTING THE MOBILITY PARADIGM - PART I
SLOVENIA: GOING GREEN AND DIGITAL - PART I
SLOVENIA: GOING GREEN AND DIGITAL - PART II