The plan was an ambitious one. In 2011, the university resolved to reduce the number of staff going to work by car from 36 percent (in 2011) to 25 percent in 2015. And now, four years later, the current state of affairs has not met expectations, since the actual percentage achieved is only 1.2 percentage points. This is a great disappointment. Or possibly not entirely?
The university adopted a mobility plan in 2011 in order to reduce CO2 emissions and improve the living environment on campus. One of the most drastic measures in this plan was the introduction of parking fees on campus in 2013. This measure came up against a lot of opposition, and the University Council rejected the Executive Board’s first proposal in 2011.
An amended version of this proposal, in which parking fees would increase from 1 euro a day in 2013 to 1.75 euros in 2014 and 2.50 euros in 2015, was eventually approved. This amount has not changed in the meantime and it will not be substantially increased for the time being either. University staff who work full time have been allocated 12 free parking days, however.
More luxury parking spaces
Parking on campus has become more pleasant in the meantime. The eastern side of the Erasmus Plaza is almost completed: the central part of the new campus will be finished in a couple of months. An underground car park will be constructed underneath like the one on the western side. Since this means that the car park on the northern side of Woudestein will be closed, the net number of parking spaces on campus will increase from about 1,400 to 1,500.
This is not a very substantial increase, but it will mean there will be fewer cars parked on the streets and the campus will look much more attractive. And that, of course, is the most important point.
A master plan for a new campus was drawn up in 2008. Its main objective was to prevent the entire campus from becoming an open car park. The closing of the northern car park means that this objective has now been more or less achieved. The only parking spaces at street level are those on Sportlaan, but these will eventually be closed as well. But if you can park your car in a warm dry place with an exit near the office, why would you want to make a tiring journey to the campus by metro or tram, or on the bike in the wind and rain?
Luckily there still are parking fees to encourage staff to make use of public transport or bicycles. However, these fees are nowhere near sufficient to cover the costs of the underground car park (which was never the idea anyway). According to estimates, depreciation and interest charges for each parking space on campus will amount to about 1,800 euros a year by 2018.
If we assume that a parking space will be occupied by a staff member for about 200 days a year, this will result in about 500 euros. This means that parking on campus is still being ‘subsidised’ to a considerable extent. Of course, these ‘subsidies’ are not only in the interests of people who go to work by car; they are also in the interests of everyone who would prefer not to have to look out over a sea of cars the whole time. And an underground car park is a lot more expensive to run than an ordinary open car park.
However, this does not alter the fact that 500 euros a year is quite a lot of money for staff members, especially those in the lower salary scales. But is it enough to discourage them from coming by car? A definitive conclusion on the 2011 mobility plan won’t be drawn until the spring, although an interim evaluation has already been carried out. And the figures it reveals give rise to mixed feelings.
Objective nowhere near achieved
This is because the university has nowhere near succeeded in achieving the main objective in the mobility plan, i.e. reducing the number of staff members who primarily come to work by car from 36 percent to 25 percent. In reality, this percentage only dropped by 1.2 percentage points to 34.8 percent in four years, which is practically negligible.
But if we take a closer look at the figures in the evaluation, we see that there are a number of positive points too. For example, the number of ‘parking moves’ (the number of cars visiting the campus) was 25 percent lower during the evaluation period in January to May 2015 than during the same period in 2014.
On the basis of this information, and on the basis of postal code data on the parking permits, we can establish that the number of kilometres driven by EUR staff in 2015 was about 400,000 less than in 2014, which means a decrease of 63 tons in CO2 emissions. The fact that the number of parking moves has decreased while the number of staff coming to work by car has remained constant gives rise to the assumption that these staff do not use their cars so often on a weekly basis.
However, there may be another equally valid explanation for this: the staff members are parking their cars in the nearby district of De Esch due to the increase in parking fees. According to the evaluation report, the numbers involved are considerable. And there is not a great deal that the university can do about this, since parking in this neighbourhood is the municipality’s responsibility. Parking there is still free of charge, so part of our discouragement policy has been wiped out.
No need to come by car
Of course, another question is how many staff members out of this 34.8 percent still come to work by car even though there is no need to do so. And this is difficult to determine. There must be a number of people who flatly refuse to abandon their cars, and others who feel that the 2.50-euro parking fee is not high enough for them to change their habits. In any event, it is certain that not everyone is able to come to work by public transport or on the bicycle.
For those who live in small villages, travelling by public transport can easily take twice as long as it would by car. Travelling by public transport is often financially unfavourable as well. A season ticket for Dutch Railways only works out cheaper than individual tickets for people who work four or more days a week.
Relying on other parties
In addition, the university does not refund all travel expenses for staff who travel by train: this refund works out at no more than 11 euros a day. And this means that the university only refunds the first 40 kilometres travelled by train. So if the university wants more staff to leave their cars at home, we will have to rely on other parties to a large extent: on Dutch Railways, which ought to charge realistic prices for season tickets, and on the municipality to finally decide on paid parking in De Esch neighbourhood. And finally, of course, we will have to rely on those lazy people who still prefer sitting in a traffic jam on the motorway to change their habits.