Since the Covid restrictions were lifted, I have been going into Brussels two days a week. This commute involves driving into a nearby town and catching a train. The train station has plenty of parking and, once I’m in Brussels, the walk to the office only takes five minutes, so it’s a pretty easy commute overall.
Although the station parking has long been free, it’s been clear for a while that this is going to change. There has been a lot of construction work going on over the past year or so, this involves converting car park into a lager area for buses, closing off most of the entrances to the car park and putting a payment barrier on the remaining one.
And on Wednesday they activated the barrier.
The barrier was down and there was a man standing next to it to tell me that I needed to take a ticket now and pay when I left, of I could buy a season ticket at the station office which would work out a lot cheaper. So I took the ticket as directed, parked and walked into the station office.
I had four minutes until my train was due, and there was a queue of about eight people, all clutching their parking tickets, and clearly wanting to buy a season ticket. So I decided that I would sort this out once I returned from work.
I’m quite glad that I did this because it meant that I was able to look up the parking prices and options during the day and establish that, not only does the season ticket work out a lot cheaper, but I could also get a discount for being a train user. And having done this meant that I wasn’t particularly flustered when I returned to the station to discover that manned ticket desk had closed for the day.
So, to the ticket machine where I discovered that, because I have a MoBIB card (essentially a credit card type thing on which I can store train and other transport tickets), I was able to buy a three month parking subscription (only three months because that’s when my season ticket for the train expires) which was loaded directly onto the card.
After that, it was just a case of waving my card at the parking barrier and I don’t need to do anything more until April.
People often complain about Belgium being a very bureaucratic country, and it is. It is also a very integrated country in terms of digitally accessing various services. But the thing is, the bureaucracy works. As long as you are willing to take a few minutes to understand the process — and this information is generally very easy to find — things tend move along very smoothly indeed.