‘MOMENTUM’ and ‘eHubs’ – a match made in Leuven

EU-funded projects often face prejudices of lacking longevity and synergies with other stakeholders, which are not part of the project consortium. In the following talk with Tim Asperges, transport policy advisor for the City of Leuven, we discuss how cities can capitalise from the participation in European projects. The discussions will continue in the framework of a POLIS Projects’ Webinar, which will take place on 10 September 2020 at 14:00. The open webinar is now available on Youtube.

Please introduce the role of the City of Leuven within the eHubs and MOMENTUM projects?

Thanks to my six years of work experience in cooperation with a great group of colleagues in the transport department of the City of Leuven, I like to share some insights about our involvements in the projects of MOMENTUM and eHubs.

Leuven has the ambition to install 50 eHubs, which are stations that offer shared mobility services as an addition to the traditional public transport. The eHubs, or ‘Mobipunten’ as we call them in Leuven, are spatial clusterings of different mobility offers.

Our city has joined the MOMENTUM project with the aim to develop a new generation of transport models, which considers the effect and impact of the new shared mobility services. As transport planners, we observe a growing importance of these shared mobility services.

 

What are the unique feature and challenges of Leuven with regards to traffic planning and shared mobility?

Leuven is a mid-sized city of 100.000 inhabitants and thanks to the attractiveness of our university, we observe a steady population growth of 1000 inhabitants per year, which is also affected by several spin-offs from KU Leuven university, which create additional employment. Even though this steady growth of our city can be regarded as positive, it is still considered as a major challenge for our transport policy.

As we have set ourselves the ambitious target of climate-neutrality by 2030, we want to double the number of trips made by public transport and cycling by 2030. In order to solve the last-mile problem, we decided to install the 50 ‘Mobipunten’, which will provide different shared mobility solutions with a focus on electro-mobility.

 

In brief, when was the first time the city of Leuven considered eHubs and why?

The decision for the eHubs was reached in parallel with the decision to define a new circulation plan in 2016. During this period, we already had a clear vision thanks to our Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan (SUMP).

We know that Leuven has a well-established car sharing system, which grew over the last 15 years, and we observed that our provider for shared bikes at the central station was flourishing. Thus, we wanted to significantly extend this mobility offer and the eHubs project seemed to be an excellent tool to achieve that.

 

Did you engage with the inhabitants of Leuven? Were they able to influence the selection of locations and what was their response?

The location selection was done in two stages, a top-down approach, which included a high-level decision to build several eHubs around our main transport hubs, as well as a bottom-up approach by organising consultations in the different neighbourhoods of Leuven.

We consulted the citizens on whether a demand for eHubs existed and which minimum offers they should include. These offers range from shared bikes, cars, electric bikes, e-scooter up to cargo-bikes. Overall, the responses were very positive and the majority showed great interest in the project. Currently, we are finalizing the selection process for some of the remaining locations.

 

What is the road map for the physical installation of the eHubs and when do expect to finalise this task?

Currently, the first 15 eHubs are being installed and will be opened at the end of September during our car-free day in Leuven. Five of these first 15 eHubs will be installed at locations selected through the public consultation process. Concerning the remaining 35, the rollout will happen through the next year, as long as COVID-19 is not creating significant delays.

As the project has been regarded as a lighthouse project by the Flemish authorities, the transport minister of the Flemish region will announce a 100€ Million investment program to install eHubs throughout Flanders. These will be branded as ‘Hoppin Points’ throughout the region.  Thus, we are glad to see that our project will create some spillover effects across the region.

 

Besides this good news from the eHubs project; how will the MOMENTUM project help Leuven to cope with emerging mobility solutions?

Thanks to the before-mentioned spinoffs from KU Leuven, we have a group of transport modelling experts, who are based in Leuven. They will use the transport- and traffic situation of Leuven as a living lab to build a new generation of traffic models. Currently, we are is finalizing the data-collection phase. Once it is finished, we are aiming to extend our traffic circulation plan to different city districts, thanks to the knowledge gained from the project. This plan will be supported by WECOUNT, a third EU-funded project, which is providing real-time data, thanks to traffic flow data collection by dozens of citizens in Leuven. The citizens engagement in the WeCount project is one of the key elements in involving them in the future traffic planning.

 

What can audience expect from the webinar on 10 September and how can they find further information?

They can expect further detailed assessments related to the transport modelling aspect of MOMENTUM, further insights concerning the installation of our eHubs and a broader overview of the work in other project cities. In case you cannot join, we invite you to check out additional information on the homepages of eHubs and MOMENTUM, as well as their social media channels (eHubs, MOMENTUM).

We invite you to watch the webinar on Youtube here.