In light of confirmation that the proposed “Blue Line” rapid transport service will run through UCD, Amy Bracken asks whether the plan is astute from a financial viewpoint
Every day of term, if you happen to be near a UCD car park between the hours of nine and five, you will undoubtedly see a string of cards queuing and hoping that a space will soon become available so that their occupants will be on time for their classes.
A student driving to college told me recently that they have to time it so that they are at UCD at least two hours before their first class if they are to have any chance of finding a parking space. The issue of car parking on the UCD campus is hardly a secret, but measures are being taken to rectify it.
UCD has made an application to Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council for further parking spaces to be added to the campus. Additionally, it was announced during the week that UCD is to benefit from the proposed Blue Line rapid transport service that is hoped to be approved, built and put into operation in three to four years.
While both proposed initiatives are still in the debating process, it is expected that the Blue Line will be passed. The question of whether or not the additional parking spaces will be given the go-ahead is debatable.
The plan proposes for the facility to provide 583 car spaces, 617 bicycle spaces and 81 motorcycle spaces, which would arguably have a small but effective impact on the parking problem in UCD.
Yet there are undoubtedly issues with the application, notably that it will require the university to compromise on its already minimal green space, which is a necessity within urban areas. UCD already has a reputation for being a concrete jungle, and by sacrificing it’s green space, it would only add to already dull and unwelcoming outlook of the campus.
Should the plan go ahead, it is also expected to lead to the removal of five of the campus’ tennis courts in order to provide space for the construction of the car park.
Given that the plan proposed would provide only minimal relief to the issue of cap parking, is compromising on all this space really the right way to go?
UCD is attempting to maintain an image of a centre for excellence, not just in academic terms, but also in terms of excellence in sports and extra-curricular activities. A campus as large as Belfield with hardly any green space hardly creates an image of excellence. Moreover, placing a car park on what was once a sports ground will not do any favours for it in terms of encouraging interest and victories in sports.
In the long run, the plan is hardly worthwhile, as the government is proposing for ten per cent of all vehicles in the country to be run on electricity by 2020. For this, UCD will need to ensure that ten per cent of its parking spaces have a recharge facility in ten years time.
If time and money are going to be put into the building of a new car park and space is to be allocated for it, how is this plan worthwhile if more money and space will be needed to ensure the recharge facilities (for ten per cent of all those driving to Belfield) are to be implemented by 2020?
My scepticism about the project is not just due to the practicalities of the issue, as funding must of course be considered in the case of any proposal like this. UCD has debts of around €11,000,000. Thus, the funding of this scheme will more than likely have to come from the students, just as is the case with the new Student Centre.
Some might argue that as the parking issue mostly affects students, given the proportion of students to staff in UCD, that we should pay for it, as we will be the people who will ultimately benefit from it. Yet this is doubtful if we are to consider that tennis courts are to taken away to pave the way for it.
A vital element of university is socialising and getting involved in extra-curricular activities. If sports facilities have to be taken away for this proposal, then the likelihood is that further sports facilities will be taken away by 2020 in order to create space for the electrically powered car recharge facilities.
While we appreciate the initiative of the university in applying for the extra parking spaces, especially given the volume of students who now choose to drive to college, it seems that sacrificing campus grounds and spending money that nobody has is hardly a viable solution to the problem.