Bisa: nearly half a million cars registered in Brussels

When the Good Move plan and the new parking ordinance were introduced in Brussels, it was already clear that 53% of Brussels households do not own a car on average. That average rises to 70% among the poorest quarter of the population. Still, there are nearly half a million cars registered in Brussels.

A new analysis by the Brussels Institute for Statistics and Analysis (Bisa) now shows that the further away from the center, the more often families own a car. Whereas in the Pentagon, only a quarter of families have their own car, it is more than three times as many in the Brussels periphery.

Geography of car ownership

For the first time in twenty years, the detailed geography of households owning private and commercial vehicles in the Brussels territory and its immediate outskirts has been compiled. Bisa has managed to map in detail the car ownership of households in Brussels based on data provided by Statbel. These are figures for the year 2019. For the first time, the analysis area also includes the Brussels periphery.

There are 488 226 vehicles registered in the Brussels Capital Region (BCR) – in Belgium, it is nearly 6 million cars. Of these, 281 190 are registered in the name of a natural person, and 163 269 in the name of a legal entity. That category represents vehicles purely for professional use.

Furthermore, 48 357 salary cars, known as ‘company cars’, are also registered in the BCR. However, the latter figures are an underestimate, says Bisa, because tax returns of company cars are not always complete.

The closer to the center, the less car ownership

More than half of Brussels households (52%) do not currently own a car: this is twice the Belgian average (27%). Moreover, only 10% of Brussels households have several cars: this is almost three times less than in the other regions of the country (29% and 28% respectively in the Flemish and Walloon Regions).

Car ownership increases the further one lives from the Grand Place. For example, a quarter (26%) of households within the Pentagon own a car, and there are hardly any company cars.

In the zone between the Small Ring and the Central Ring (the so-called first crone, the area with significant avenues such as Auguste Reyers Avenue and General Wahislaan in the east, Churchill Avenue in the south, and the railway tracks in the west), 38% of households already have a car. On the other hand, the zone between the Central Ring and the regional border with Flanders, the so-called second crone, is already 56%.

‘Border effect’

If you go even further, to just over the border with Flanders, about eight in ten households own a car on average. In some neighborhoods of the Brussels periphery, this is even the case for 96% of families.

The Bisa speaks of a real ‘border effect’ linked to income. This is also confirmed when looking at the share of households with several cars. Within the Pentagon, only 3% of households have multiple cars. However, the further you go to the outskirts, the higher that figure rises, to even 40% across the border with Flanders.

Poor-rich contrast

Yet there are also notable differences within Brussels. In the first crown, for example, households have fewer cars in the districts of Matonge, the European Quarter, and Flagey, the lower part of Saint-Gilles and Schaerbeek, and in the commune of Saint-Josse-ten-Noode. There, less than a third of households have a car.

In the western part of the first crown, with Molenbeek and part of Anderlecht, we see that households are more likely to have a car: between 35% and 50% of households have a car. Looking at the communes of Uccle, Watermael-Boitsfort, Auderghem, Woluwe-Saint-Pierre, and Woluwe-Saint-Lambert, or the richer Brussels communes, we see that 60% of households have a car, and 15 to 20% of households even have several cars. Company cars are also much more common there.

This percentage then rises in stages if you look at the well-to-do peripheral neighborhoods of the municipalities of Jette, Ganshoren, and Berchem-Sainte-Agathe: there are the families with the most cars.

This contrast between car ownership and income is also clarified if you look at some specific socio-spatial neighborhoods. For example, car ownership is much lower in social housing estates, student neighborhoods, and long major brick roads.

Better public transport network

Car ownership is much lower in areas more accessible by public transport and densely populated. “In those neighborhoods, traffic jams are more frequent, and parking is difficult, which may help explain the choice not to buy a car,” says Bisa researcher Thomas Ermans in the weekly Bruzz.

“There is also better access to hospitals, schools, and shops a short distance away and via public transport. And the supply of shared cars may be higher in those neighborhoods, says Ermans.

The researchers, therefore, argue for a better public transport network between the Brussels Region and the Brussels periphery. According to them, the border difference between Brussels and the periphery, and thus Flanders, can be reduced if there is better public transport, which might also reduce motorized traffic in the periphery.


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