The system exists in an interesting local government context, because Brussels is a self-governing region, in fact an enclave within Flanders, although lying only some 3.3 kilometres from Wallonia at the closest point. This means that three-way deals are necessary between Brussels’ own STIB/MIVB, Flanders’ De Lijn and Wallonia’s TEC. Within the range of transport modes operated by STIB/MIVB (the Brussels Intercommunal Transport Company) trams fall between buses and a heavy metro. But beyond that, STIB sees itself as a provider of mobility rather than just public transport, and has a 49% share in the town’s Cambio carsharing franchise. The Brussels conurbation – its 19 municipalities plus adjoining commuter belt – is also served by a fairly dense network of main-line trains. There is a good level of interticketing, and multiple-journey cards are interchangeable. A simple tariff system permits passengers to make unlimited changes with a one-hour period at a cost of €2.00 when bought from the driver or €1.80 when bought from a ticket machine.
Ridership has been rising, and other user-friendly features that have grown up through custom and practice help this. For instance passengers open the doors themselves by pressing a green strip on the central pole, and drivers usually make a point of waiting for latecomers. However overcrowding at rush hours and at weekend is common, and fare-dodging is reputedly quite high, despite periodic enforcement campaigns.
High-floor and low-floor trams
As of July 2010, STIB operates the following trams, stabled in five depots:
2010 Vancouver Olympics
The system exists in happy symbiosis with an active heritage operation based at the Woluwe depot, and privately hired trams have free access to the tracks. Very old trams, which still collect their current through trolley poles rather than pantographs, are normally restricted to the scenic line from Cinquantenaire park via Woluwe to Tervuren, which is run with the help of volunteers from the preservation society MTUB (Museum of Brussels Urban Transport). This service runs at weekends from April to October; occasionally, such as on the Belgian national holiday July 21, these trams appear in the city centre, where the line in the "Koningsstraat/Rue Royale" is trolleypole-enabled.
Over the years, several Brussels trams have been sent to the United States. Brussels tram 7037 is in San Francisco operating on line F, surreally repainted in the blue-and-white livery of Zürich. Brussels tram 1504 is at the Trolley Museum of New York and 1511 is at Old Pueblo Trolley. An ex-Brussels 4-axle PCC is also awaiting restoration at the Ontario St shed of Vancouver's Downtown Historic Railway.
Passenger journeys: 76.3 million per year
Vehicle-kilometres travelled: 11.7m
Commercial speed: 16.8 km/h
No of trams: 332, of which 21.7% accessible
Length of tramline (double): 133.9 km, of which 72.5 km on reservation and 12.1 km in tunnel
Distance between stops (surface): 392 m
No. of depots: 6, + 2 workshops
Source: STIB/MIVB 2009 annual report
- Tramways and Urban Transit, July 2005, published by the Light Rail Transit Association. ISSN 1460-8324
- (French) Tram2000 – a monthly magazine
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