The Joy of Parking

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.

10 thoughts on “The Joy of Parking

  1. At my very Blue signage famous retail bank here in the U.K. we have free parking at our campus. We have a shuttle bus service for free that transports from two of the major train stations near to the campus. We also have charging for hybrid or electric cars on site. It’s intresting have transport has evolved post pandemic. I am still only in one day week. That should be two days after our refurbishment has been completed at our campus. Glad you got your season tickets for parking? Ben


    1. The season ticket is well worth it. A one-month ticket is €40 but without it I’d be paying just over €8 a day. The three month one works out as cheaper and the annual one makes it almost reasonable.

      Obviously, it would all cost a lot more if I didn’t have a train ticket. I imagine they are trying to discourage people from parking at the station and walking into town.


  2. They recently announced abolishing physical tickets here in my region of Canada. My mom, who is in her 70s and relatively comfortable with her smartphone, manages if need. But many of her peers don’t have phones or, if they do, don’t understand apps. The transition has been… challenging.

    Meanwhile, the electronic stuff breaks down semi-regularly and since there is no backup system in place, it’s caused a little bit of stress for a lot of people. 🙄


    1. The digital stuff tends to pretty reliable over here, and once you have the card sorted out it’s just a case of waving it at the machine. If I’d have been willing to wait for an hour and catch the next train, I could have sorted it all out with the man at the ticket desk, but I like getting in early because then I can leave early 😉

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    1. The discount is essential. Without it, the prices are completely off the scale. I strongly suspect that people have been parking here to go into town and this is what they are trying to discourage.

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  3. Yes, a good point Paul. Personally I don’t find it over-bureaucratic, apart from the fact that everything is in at least two languages. But I am always impressed at the digitalization of the health services and health insurance system, the latest benefits being prescriptions on my ID card rather than on paper.


    1. Absolutely! I find that when people complain about the bureaucracy, it’s because it doesn’t work how they want it to work and they are not willing to find out how it does work.

      I have the digital prescriptions as well. I had a few problems initially with the doctor under-prescribing various medicines, but this has all been ironed out and it all works very well now. Hospital appointments also go onto my ID card — I turn up, put the card into a machine and it prints all of the health insurance stickers I could possibly need as well as directions to the consultant.

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