Today we had our first TV interview on what we are doing as part of smarter cities challenge. Mark and Christian did great job on answering questions from the journalist and here is the link for you to watch.
Primarily interviewed revolved around human interest and findings of smarter cities challenge team. TV interview was for local station: TV Brussel
here Mark giving the interview…
We are now into the final week of our SCC assignment in Brussels and the team is madly typing away on our keyboards completing the presentation and final report. While our team has been heads down and focused on getting ready for our final presentation, I want to share with you some of the extracurricular highlights of our trip so far!
For those that are not familiar with the typical Belgium weather, it usually ranges from partly cloudy, to full on cloudy, to cloudy with a chance of showers – and the last 2 weeks were no exception! However, we were blessed this weekend with a beautiful day of sunshine on Sunday, and we took the opportunity to visit a local market in the municipality of Anderlecht and test out the local bike sharing program – Villo!
Team on Villo bikes!
Belgians have a love of good food and fresh ingredients. Our team has shared many great meals together, trying many different cuisines highlighting the international nature of the community. Here is a sample of some of the more interesting meals we have had!
Belgium is of course famous for….. Waffles! Did you know that this signature snack was meant as an afternoon treat and not for breakfast? We saw many tourists loading them up with toppings such as whipped cream, strawberries, and chocolate. But as my fellow SCC colleagues, Paul Slayton and Mark Goldstein, can attest to… the best way to enjoy your Liege style waffle is…. Plain!!! That way you can experience the crunch of those tasty bits of sugar folded into the batter that create a gooey caramelized crust! YUMMM!!!
Other Belgian specialties …. beer & chocolate of course!
Until next time…tot ziens and à bientôt!
Yesterday we reached the mid-point of our assignment here in Brussels! We have completed our interviews, documented our findings, are solidifying our recommendations, have a draft of our presentation, and are starting in our written report. It’s been a very busy 10 days so far!
Our 6-person Smarter Cities Challenge team has ….
- completed 32 interviews with government officials, public transit operators, executives at private companies and associations, academics, consultants and bloggers
- received over 450 responses to a survey about mobility preferences that we created and distributed via social media earlier this week
- taken 27 trips in and around Brussels by our team on all modes of transportation: car, bus, metro, tram, train, bike and on foot
Before arriving last week, we did our research and knew something about the traffic congestion issue here. For example, a study by the OECD found that “the Brussels Capital Region experiences some of the worst peak-hour traffic congestion in Europe“.
Here are some key facts that bear that out …
Having been here now for 10 days, we have certainly experienced the traffic first-hand. As I write this at 6:30pm, here’s a view of the traffic on the “small belt”, or inner ring road, that runs just past our hotel … it’s bumper to bumper, with all red tail lights and constant honking horns!
Stay tuned as we continue to refine our thinking, and polish the deliverables for our partners, Minister of Mobility and Public Works Pascal Smet and State Secretary of the Brussels-Capital Region Bianca Debaets.
We are at the start of week 2 and looking forward to crystalize our thoughts. We’re analysing all that we have learnt through 20+ meetings which we had with various stakeholders as part of week 1. Information and insights which we got through these meetings are valuable indeed and are going to be as important as part of this week’s work.
Two things stand out differently in Brussels Capital region: 1) it’s a complex framework of 19 municipalities and surrounding region, 2) the company car policy compared to other parts of the world. The weekends were hectic, thanks to the agenda filled to the brim with activities, but exciting. On Saturday morning we headed to meet the CoderDojo-team. Coderdojo (http://brussels.coderdojobelgium.be/) is a voluntary organization where kids between 8-14 years are given task to do coding or think creatively. We thought what would be better way to trap the creativity of the kids and understand how they see mobility in the city. They are the future citizens of the city. How would they like to commute ? The group was representative for the Brussels region, a multi lingual group with Dutch, French and English speaking children They came up with many interesting ideas such as bike lanes which can be lit with light to have better safety . Some of they drew pictures on how they see various modes of transport, some of them made a presentation on mobility options. Here are some of these pictures.
After that, we headed to Brugges, a medieval town, capital of Lace and a great place of culture and history.We learnt lot about the city with our city tour guide. We enjoyed a good team dinner in Brugges before we called for the day. It is great place , you can appreciate the beauty of the city captured through our lens..
Sunday morning was spent in team brainstorming on gathering our thoughts around recommendations and finding data gaps. During noon, we were given a challenge. In the “mobility game”we were divided into three teams. Each team was given a public transportation ticket, an ipad and a spot or location in the city they had to visit. As part of the game we were encouraged to use multi modal transportation as each of the modes of transport had points associated with it. We had options to visit other places or spots in the city. The only catch was that we as a whole team had to meet for lunch at a given spot. It was fun and a learning experience to be on field and use various modes of transportation. One of the teams managed to visit all the places in the city such as Halle Gate, Black Tower ,Aneessens Tower and few others. We had great team lunch and then we had to head back to hotel again by taking various public transport. So this was a useful exercise and experience indeed as we could learn the nuances and understand both advantage and areas of improvement on public transport. Stay tuned till we blog next…
So finally the SCC Brussels team has hit the ground. We arrived here on Sunday while our US colleagues were stuck in the USA due to snow storm and had almost 48 hours travel time since they left their home. Indeed rough start but we all are champions and ready to take on the challenge.
So we are Brussels, which is the Belgian capital and also the seat of European Union parliament and an important hub for the international businesses. We have been given the challenge to recommend solution which address the mobility challenge of Brussels. As per the statistics it is one of the top most congested cities of Europe. Hmm, indeed, interesting challenge to solve.
It has been an intense time since we have hit the ground, but exciting as well. Especially when we see the commitment from the city leaders and all the involved stakeholders. Best of part being IBMer is we are truly global. We are team of six experts who have never worked together or ever met each other. But in couple of minutes as a team we have got rolling and been excited to be part of this challenge at the same time knowing each other.
We had kick-off event on 24th Feb with Minister of Mobility Mr Pascal Smet, and Secretary of state Bianca Debaets along with approximately 60 stakeholders associated with mobility and transportation. This event has got press coverage and was a great start to create awareness among the stakeholders as well as citizens. Here is the photo of the event.
It was good event where Mr Smet shared his vision on how we sees the Brussels Capital region. Primarily it should aim on the quality of life for citizens. He put it crisply that we as humans are social beings. But with our current life style, where we drive for long hours, instead of having better human interaction, we spend long hours frustrating ourselves in traffic. If we really care about ourselves and the environment then more and more we need to adopt public transportation and reduce the strain on the mobility network.
Brussels Capital region is unique that it is divided into Brussels city and 19 municipalities surrounding the city,where each of the stakeholder is responsible for their own zone. In addition Brussels as a city gets traffic from all the various regions of Belgiumwhich makes the mobility issues bit more complicated as it involves actors or stakeholders from other regions and municipalities.
In last two days we spent a good amount of time having meetings with various stakeholders. It is very positive and encouraging to see that all want to resolve the mobility challenge the citizens of Brussels capital region are facing today.
We have few more days of interviews and understanding the cause of traffic congestion and how best we could get our expertise to resolve it. We know there is lot to do so stay tuned till next blog.