Hasselt, the capital of the Belgian province of Limburg, has a population of 68,000, and is the regional center for a population of 800,000 people. 200,000 people from the region commute in and out of the city every day. Faced with rising debt and congestion, the city council decided in 1996 that they would not build a third road ringing the city. Instead, the city converted the inner ring to a bicycle and pedestrian path, increased the frequency of buses, and announced that buses would be free of charge.
Starting in July 1997,three times as many buses made six times as many trips on twice as many routes. Bus ridership increased by 800 percent, from around 40,000 trips per month to over 300,000.
Hasselt has been showered with international awards and prizes for the innovative way it has tackled congestion and pollution. The scheme has made the town more pleasant and attracted more business. Taxes have been cut and the city’s debt is down.
"Usually I don’t take it, the bus, but now it’s free, I take it a lot of times. It starts right in front of my door, so it’s very easy," a Hasselt resident told CNN."There are fewer accidents, fewer road casualties, and we see an increase in social activity," said Hasselt’s mayor.
- City of Hasselt, Belgium Web Site
- Carfree Cities – This website proposes a daring solution to the problems associated with urban automobiles.
- Sprawl Guide — an introduction to the problems of suburban sprawl, by the American Planners Association.
- Recommended Reading:
- Stacy Mitchell’s book The Hometown Advantage: How to Defend Your Main Street Against Chain Stores and Why it Matters.
- Christopher Alexander et. al, A Pattern Language: towns, building, construction, New York, Oxford University Press, 1977