As the anticipation of a new, post-coronavirus academic year approaches, many students who commute to University College Dublin (UCD) are facing the prospect of new and additional challenges. Following this week’s announcement that Trinity College Dublin is working with Dublin City Council to improve infrastructure for students walking and cycling in the wake of the pandemic, questions are being raised over the future difficulties likely to be faced by many UCD students who commute, and what may be done to help them in September.
In its most recent commuting survey conducted in 2019, UCD reported that 41% of its students take public transport, such as buses and trains, while around 30% walk or cycle to campus regularly. UCD is served by no less than 21 different buses daily during the academic term and runs a shuttle bus service to and from campus for commuters who take the DART.
At the moment, buses and trains are running at limited capacity to enable ‘social distancing’. A representative from Dublin Bus has told The College Tribune that they remain “hopeful” to be back to a significantly more “normal operation” by September.
In relation to buses such as the 39A, one of the most popular buses among students at UCD, Dublin Bus believes that if restrictions on the number of people travelling on buses remain in September – “more buses” would likely be needed to make up for this lack of capacity. They added that they are “continually monitoring” the restrictions and possibilities with relation to capacity with constant “feedback from drivers” and are working in conjunction with the HSE.
For those who can cycle, UCD already has 3,948 bike spaces on campus, however UCD has not been able to provide information on any prospective plans for improving infrastructure such as that outlined by Trinity College this week.
Aisling Kidney, a UCD student living within cycling distance of campus has told The College Tribune, how some local areas around UCD with poor cycling infrastructure prevent her from cycling every day. As a result of her safety concerns, she usually gets the no. 17 bus instead, which is usually “crammed with commuters even at off-peak times”.
Aisling has said that, owing to the prospect of limited public transport in September, she is “considering cycling more often”, but added that without the proper infrastructure, she would still be hesitant. She commented that “the cycling lanes, particularly at peak rush hour, in areas around the Clonskeagh side of UCD are what stops me from cycling to campus. More traffic lights specifically for cyclists in the cycle lanes, even temporary ones during peak traffic times, would be a great addition to the outskirts of campus.”
This week, the ‘Programme for Government’ released by the prospective coalition announced plans for an ‘unprecedented modal shift’ in mobility through a re-orientation of investment to walking, cycling and public transport. 10% of the total transport capital budget will be used for cycling projects. A further 10% will be used for pedestrian infrastructure. However, it is not yet known how and when UCD and its students will benefit from these plans.
Gemma Farrell – Reporter