‘Give internationals living outside Groningen a discount pass for public transport’

Scarce housing options have forced some internationals to relocate outside the city of Groningen and pay extra for their commute. They should get a discount travel pass, says student party SOG.

A room in Haren seemed like a reasonable idea to Gabriela Bolan, who found one on Kamernet from her home country of Romania. The European languages and cultures student checked Google Maps, of course, and the twelve-kilometre distance between Haren and Groningen didn’t scare her off, either. ‘I thought that maybe it wouldn’t be that expensive to commute by train’, she says, shrugging her shoulders. 

Paying 5 euros for a return eight-minute ride on a daily basis turned out to be a costly addition to her rent, however. ‘And I am not physically able to bike every day to the city because it is too much for me.’ 

Discount

Since most international students can’t apply for a Student Travel Product that lets Dutch students use public transport for free or at a reduced rate, SOG came up with the idea of a discount travel card for internationals who live a short bus or train ride away from Groningen. A good discount on public transport would encourage them to find a home in the outskirts and would help to defuse the housing crisis, says international representative Myriam Kammüller. 

‘We calculated that a typical student living, say, in Delfzijl or Haren spends around 360 euros per month on transportation. It would be nice to reduce that to 50 or 100 euros’, says Kammüller.

Any discount would be a huge help for students, says Alexandre Prot from France, who pays 350 euros for a room on a farm in the village of Ubbena in Drenthe. In order to cut his costs, the master student of economic development and globalisation cycles for two and a half hours every day in order to get to Zernike and back. ‘I don’t want to spend 12 euros a day just on buses, so I get home pretty tired.’

Jungle

But the discount card will not be available until the next academic year, says SOG faction chair Johannes Hütten.

The party is currently building the case and approaching public transport companies Arriva and Qbuzz as well as the municipality and the university council. Even though the initial reaction from the board of directors was positive, the legal hiccup is that the university can’t pay for students directly. ‘This is a bureaucratic jungle, but we are figuring out a loophole’, says Hütten.

When they do find that legal loophole, they may even run a pilot as soon as in the second semester or ‘at least half way through the third block’, adds Hütten. ’With fifty or one hundred students in the pilot, we could see how it works and I think the university would also like to check it.’

Pilot

‘I‘d be the first one to participate in the pilot’, says Jule Steinhauer, who moved to Assen last summer. Each month, the German student of European languages and cultures pays 140 euros for her Dal Vrij subscription and travel during peak hours. ‘It is like half of my rent, which is ridiculous. They can definitely support us, internationals, on public transport.’

The high cost of commuting aside, Jule has no regrets now that she rents a spacious two-room apartment together with her boyfriend: thanks to the rent benefit, it only costs them 270 euros a month each.

‘I was afraid at first that I would miss out on student life and nobody would want to visit me, but when I saw the housing prices in Assen compared to Groningen, I was like, why didn’t I do this earlier?’, says Jule. ‘And why is it not more common for students to live here’, she adds. ‘Especially when you’re homeless and you have no other choice.’

Nederlands

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