Driving less is fine, but please fix public transport

Everyone who lives within a 15-kilometre radius of the UG will be losing their parking spot. And people are only allowed to travel by plane if their destination is more than 800 kilometres away. Most people agree on the flying thing, but less so on the car and parking space.

Anais Ruiz is from Los Angeles in the United States. She’s spent a quarter of her life in the smog of the big city which ‘irrevocably contributes to the destruction of our planet with its use of cars’. She’s never seen a normal sunrise; there was always smog in the air. ‘The answer is here. Cities like Groningen should be everywhere. We should all bike’, she writes.

‘I think it’s a good idea that the UG is curtailing its policy on work travel’, says philosophy teacher educator Eva-Anne Le Coultre from the Faculty of Behavioural and Social Sciences. She says it’s matter of changing our standards: it should no longer be normal for people to travel to work by car. ‘Good policy can lead to a quick change in standards. Look what they did with smoking.’

Challenge yourself

Greek student of international relations and international organisation Doros Voulgaridis agrees with her. According to him, people should challenge themselves. Back in his native country, everyone drives, but years ago, he decided he would start biking everywhere.

It wasn’t easy, he says, since temperatures in Greece in the summer easily reach 30 degrees Celsius and above, the terrain is mountainous, and ‘road accident statistics are terribly high’. 

Voulgaridis tries to approach the situation differently. Sure, the commute takes more time. But he doesn’t consider that ‘lost time’, he says: it’s time spent protecting the earth. ‘We don’t need to feel guilty for taking the car, but we can be proud every time we manage to take the bike or train instead.’

Take the lead

History student Lisabeth Woltjer is surprised the UG is still so behind the times. A university is a bastion of knowledge and should be taking the leads on matters such as these. ‘We know exactly what we have to do. We have to choose between a few more hours on the train and the future of our planet. That seems like an easy choice to me.’

‘Driving is no longer an option. Cycling or taking the metro or the bus, which is getting increasingly greener, are the best modes of transportation’, writes associate professor of environmental sciences Henny van der Windt from the Faculty of Science and Engineering.

He acknowledges that it might be more difficult for people living in the countryside, but there are solutions: an improved transport-sharing system or smart public transport and bicycle junctions. ‘The UG could perhaps do more in this regard and provide or facilitate (shared) bicycles and collective transport.’

Crappy public transport

However, the crappy public transport is a serious obstacle, say various students and staff members. Marlies Hof, with the Faculty of Law, wrote: ‘Travelling from Haren to Zernike on public transport is a daily disaster. You never know what time you’ll arrive.’

She explains: you start at the P&R in Haren, where the morning bus occasionally ‘forgets’ its travellers, and transfer into a crowded bus to Zernike at the central station. In the afternoon, at least one and sometimes even two or three buses skip the stop at Nijenborgh because they’re full. ‘I sometimes wouldn’t get home until after five thirty, when I’d finished my work at four.’

The train isn’t much better, according to Soline Weidema, who also works at FSE. ‘Signal failures, not enough conductors, broken overhead cables, accidents on the track, equipment that isn’t working, trains that aren’t going. I’ve seen it all, and it’s only got worse over the past few months.’

Esther van Enckevort (UMCG) proposes a different approach. The UG shouldn’t consider the distance, but the actual public transport travel times. ‘It’s much easier to travel by train from Assen to Groningen than it is from a small village.’

Physical issues

Jur van Dijken, who works at FSE at the Zernike campus, writes that he can’t travel by bike because of physical issues. It takes him approximately twenty minutes to get to work by car. Travelling by public transport would take him more than an hour, ‘if I make every connection’.

To add insult to injury, Van Dijken lives 14.3 kilometres away from work, 700 metres too close to keep his parking space. His alternative suggestion: ‘They could’ve arranged a bonus for people who decide to not drive to work. That at least gives people a choice.’

IT worker Henk writes that he spent five years travelling to Zernike on public transport and that ‘it was a disaster’. ‘Either the bus didn’t come, or it was full, or it passed us by for no apparent reason. It was always really busy, people were annoyed, etc. That meant I was annoyed and stressed before I’d even started my workday.’

Finally, he go so sick of it that he bought a car ‘just to go to work’. ‘But I won’t be able to park it at Zernike anymore, because I only live twelve kilometer away.’

Compiled by Rob Siebelink 



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