Flanders is situated right in the middle of the beating heart of Western Europe. It is a crossroads of people, trade and culture that is home to a dense network of roads, waterways and railways, fine-meshed public transport and world-renowned ports.
Our world is at a turning point. Climate change, technological breakthroughs, societal evolutions and economical developments challenge our way of thinking. Especially when it comes to mobility and logistics. To stand still is to fall behind.
Any good answer starts with the right question.
How do we connect Flanders’ people and businesses in a smooth, safe, healthy and futureproof way? This is our key challenge and the starting point of a daring glimpse into tomorrow’s mobility.
Exploring the future through a unique lens
Driven by a common sense of urgency, a large-scale, participative, and neutral process was set up to come up with a shared vision for 2040. Future thinking was an obvious choice to come up with solutions for complex problems. That is why the Flemish government works with TomorrowLab to outline four future scenarios.
"The advantage of working with future scenarios is that they bring opportunities and pitfalls into focus. Therefore, it is important that they are sufficiently diverse and initiate the debate", clarifies Bart Devoldere of TomorrowLab.
"In this case, we created four future scenarios with the help of experts, policy staff and many stakeholders. Each of these scenarios offers a unique lens to critically look at mobility in Flanders. The scenarios show where opportunities and challenges can be found."
The 4 future scenarios
1. In Digi-Cosmos we primarily live in a virtual world. We move only when necessary, and for our own comfort. Our virtual cocoon is not only important to us, but also very practical. We do everything online, from exercise to relaxation.
2. In Flexi-Maxi we go wherever we want. We attach great importance to our freedom. All kinds of innovative services meet our demand for flexible traffic and transportation. Distance no longer matters. We enjoy pleasant, renewed services because major players work together.
3. In Opti-Connect we move efficiently. We want to travel as far and as often as possible. This can be done sustainably and smartly thanks to a connected network of land, water, and air traffic. We are aware of the impact of our movements on the environment and planet.
4. In Conscious-Local the effects of climate change have made us hyper-aware of the consequences of our behavior. We adapt, which impacts traffic and transportation. We build our lives closer to our homes. Our products are produced locally.
By thinking outside the box and involving other governments and stakeholders from the very beginning, various ideas could be picked up along the way and in a bottom-up manner. This way, a broad collaboration around the future scenarios and vision was set up. A lot of support and enthusiasm was built up to help realise a common vision by thinking about the future together from the start.
A shared vision as a critical first step
It goes without saying that the citizen’s voice is critical in a future-oriented mobility vision for Flanders. In the autumn of 2020, a participation process took place that made clear how broad the support is for various mobility themes and what their interpretation can be.
The result of a sentiment analysis was predominantly positive. Flemish citizens believe that traffic and transport should be organized in a sustainable, smooth, and safe way. Smart technology and infrastructure are essential to achieving that goal. In that case, affordable and environmentally friendly vehicles become a spearhead in achieving ambitions around accessibility and Mobility as a Service.
But we didn't only involve citizens: various stakeholders were regularly consulted during the process.
From scenario to reality
In the meantime, the Flemish Mobility Vision 2040 has been politically validated. The text serves as an open, inspiring framework for mobility policy over the next 20 years. Both at the Flemish level and at the level of the transport regions and local authorities. It is an invitation to civil society organizations, experts, companies, and citizens to roll their sleeves up and get to work.
Flemish Minister of Mobility and Public Works Lydia Peeters: "A vision of the future should not only focus on current problems, but also on future challenges. We are in a period of major technological and social changes. These are accompanied by major challenges and have an impact on our mobility. To deal with these uncertainties, we have used future scenarios. We cannot predict the future, but we can try to imagine it. In addition, we deliberately left room for concrete solutions and implementation plans."