From 6 January, Flemish public transport operator De Lijn will start a new, significant step in the rollout of its primary accessibility network. Buses will be concentrated on lines with higher demand and thus drive less through neighborhoods.
In the process, De Lijn will cut over 3 000 stops or about 17% of the total number. There will also be flex stops in places with fewer or no regular buses, and passengers will, therefore, have to request a ride themselves.
Most radical phase
De Lijn started in July with the rollout of basic accessibility, a new public transport system that works with layers and concretizes the Flemish government’s renewed mobility vision, Hoppin. But in January comes the second, most radical phase, by which 89% of the new network will be in place.
The backbone of that more sustainable and flexible public transport is the train network, followed by the core network: buses and trams connecting major residential areas, commercial centers, hospitals, etc. Buses between smaller cities and towns make up the supplementary network. Beyond that comes the flex-net, where buses are operated on-demand only.
Optimising busier lines
The focus will thus go to bus routes where demand is high. Those routes – many lines also get a new number or name – will be optimized: buses will often run more frequently, start earlier and end later, and no longer pass through all kinds of neighborhoods but instead follow the main roads, which will shorten the journey time.
One consequence is that stops will also disappear: from almost 20 000 stops before the start of basic accessibility, it will go to 16 392 stops after 6 January. The stops will be dropped because hardly any passengers board, for example, or because they are close to another stop that will be retained.
According to Ann Schoubs, CEO of De Lijn, this means that in densely populated regions, at least 95% of residents will retain a public transport stop no more than 750 meters away.
One in four flex stops
Some 25% of the remaining stops will be so-called flex stops. These stops are only served when a local resident requests a ride. This will be done via ‘flex transport’, the successor to on-call buses.
Travelers will then have to book a flex ride in advance through the ‘Hoppin centrale’, via app, website, or phone. This can be done from 30 days to 30 minutes before the ride.
They will first be given a 30-minute time window during which the minibus – or sometimes a taxi because the operation is entirely outsourced to external partners – will pick them up at a stop; about an hour before the ride, they will be told the exact time. Fares for flex rides are the same as for regular bus rides.
De Lijn, the company is struggling with inadequate financing, is also looking at whether it can eventually shorten that half-hour time window, a point of criticism in the test phase.
Travelers can learn more about the changes and plan their post-6 January itinerary starting Wednesday on De Lijn’s website and app. Booking a flex bus will be possible from 6 December.