Photo: Tim Caynes
Photo: Tim Caynes

By Aminah Jagne

UWE are working towards implementing a new parking proposal that is currently due to be completed by September 2014. Initially intended to be in full swing from the start of this academic year (September 2012), the parking structure could result in little to no parking for students and staff on campus.

Phase two of the proposal (currently behind schedule) would see all parking allowances for students and staff living within 3km of Frenchay campus completely withdrawn, whilst parking for all first year undergraduate students living in the ‘Bristol locality’ (what this constitutes is yet to be clarified) would also be revoked. In order to neutralise these constraints, a £1 flat fare would be introduced for any bus journeys that start or end within the 3km radius, and an inter-campus car-pooling system would be devised.

Phase three, which at present is set to be fulfilled by September 2013, would see parking withdrawn for all 2nd year undergraduates, once again living within the Bristol locality, whilst phase four (due to be implemented in 2014) would impede parking for 3rd year undergraduates.

The structure of the proposal itself raises a number of questions; ‘What will be done with the space currently being used for parking?’; ‘Will bus services be improved to account for the increased number of commuters’ and ‘What are the benefits of the proposal?’ WesternEye spoke to a number of students who are both drivers and frequent bus users, in order to gauge their opinions.

When asked if they thought the existing bus service would be able to handle the enlarged number of travellers, Zoe Cotton, a third year Health and Social Care student remarked “If the service were to stay as it is then no, I don’t believe it can handle the increase in users which will occur. At peak times buses are full, if not overcrowded, and if parking provision for students was withdrawn then there are obviously going to be more people needing to use the buses at peak times”.

Whilst Jacob Read, a UWE alumni student and current user of the Wessex Red service commented “Not in the slightest. The Wessex Red buses are already the most unreliable bus service I’ve ever used, especially at peak times, where it is not only possible but likely that a bus will not show up, let alone be on time”.

Tara Moxey, a student driver studying Business with Accounting and Finance declared “I would not be happy about being forced to use the Wessex Red service due to lack of parking on campus as I believe that as the University is based out of the city centre they should be obliged to provide parking. I do not trust the buses to run on time due to stories I have heard, I have also heard several stories about the buses being full and driving past people waiting”.

There would be a number of categories that (as long as sufficient evidence is provided) would be exempt from the restrictions, including registered blue badge holders; those with reduced or restricted mobility; those who might have caring responsibilities (e.g. children up to the age of 11 that who may need to be picked up after work); anyone with regular appointments (health or business related) and finally, shifted staff who start work before 8:30 or finish after 20:00. However, a number of current drivers would not fit into these categories. Will reducing the fee for bus journeys within 3km of Frenchay and inter-campus carpooling be enough change to aide them in the transitions?

Jacob Read believes “The £1 flat rate is a brilliant idea, but the 3km range barely reaches St Matts Campus, and the city centre is around 6.5km away from Frenchay. Car-pooling is a great idea, but people will be unwilling to use communal vehicles” Whilst Zoe Cotton added “The flat fare is a good idea, as it will provide especially for those who have to pay for parking 3km away and then catch the bus. Carpooling sounds good for staff, but more difficult to monitor with students”. Reducing parking on campus may have several environmental benefits, but will it impair other areas?

Computer Science student Khoi Nguyen observed that “The proposal would obviously reduce traffic leading up to university which is normally quite heavy in the morning. But this would also mean that Wessex Red buses would be constantly overcrowded, with passengers nearer to university most likely be unable to board the buses due to there being no space. So if you’re living on Filton Avenue, the proposal pretty much throws you right into a Catch 22”.

Zoe Cotton acknowledged that “In all likelihood, traffic will be reduced, meaning in turn the buses could run more smoothly. However, there seems to be no provision for those who need to visit campus on weekends, when bus timetables are reduced. I would want this to be strongly considered before supporting this proposal”

If the proposal does go ahead, more substantial measures may need to be taken in order to ensure that the bus service is able to handle the increased usage.

When asked what could be done to ensure a smooth transition a student who wished to remain anonymous commented “Drivers taking accountability for their timing, i.e. leaving when they’re supposed to, waiting at a stop if they arrive early and not leaving until they’re meant to, and figure out which routes/times will need increased capacity/double deckers”…“The buses would be more efficient if they were able to use the double deckers during busier times, or if more people will be catching the bus as the proposal states”.

A final concern might be the potential impact upon students’ academic studies. Would a lack of parking on campus render the 24 hour library times obsolete? Or perhaps reduce participation in sports and societies due to a lack of transport?

Tara Moxey believes “It might discourage me from attending university as much as it would seem too much hassle in comparison to driving. I regularly attend dance rehearsals which sometimes do not finish until late, which would mean I would either have to leave rehearsals early or wait around for the next bus meaning I get home even later.”

Jacob Read concluded “The proposal seems like it’s only been half thought out, with only a passing knowledge of what the students actually require to get around.

Reports on the approved UWE Stadium have stated that out of the 1000 spaces in the car park that is to be built as part of the stadium, 900 will be available for use by UWE staff and students during the day. This would allow for the land that is now Car park 20 to be redeveloped. The construction of the stadium is set to begin this summer and completed by the start of the season in 2015, after the current parking proposal’s completion date.

WesternEye was unable to retrieve a statement from UWE in time for publication. However, a statement will be provided and posted on the WesternEye website when available. The full proposal can be found at http://www.uwe.ac.uk/facilities/transport/new-proposals.shtm