Students want night busses, starting with one to housing complex De Warande
Now that Covid has faded into the background and students are enjoying Utrecht's nightlife all over again, the night busses must be back as soon as possible. That’s what the Regional Consultation of Public Transport Consumer Organisations (in Dutch, Regionaal Overleg Consumentenorganisaties Openbaar Vervoer, or Rocov in short) writes in an open letter to the provincial council, the institution responsible for issuing licences to local public transport companies.
Student union Vidius participated in the Rocov consultation, alongside passenger organisation Rover. Vidius' board member Pepijn van IJperenburg is one of the authors of the letter, which singles out the situation of the student housing complex De Warande, in Zeist.
Before the night bus stopped running in March 2020, those living at De Warande could take bus 412, which used to connect Utrecht's city centre to Zeist three times each night from Thursday to Friday. Previously, the bus also ran between Friday and Saturday. In 2010, U-OV's bus line replaced the line best known as "the Warande bus" (article in Dutch only, Ed).
Some students would rather not live at de Warande
Van IJperenburg: “Some students prefer not to live at de Warande because that bus is no longer running. Female students, in particular, don’t feel safe having to cycle home at night. They cannot afford a taxi, either.”
Student housing provider SSH confirmed to him that the waiting list for a room at De Warande has indeed diminished. Since October 2021, the amount of time a student has to wait for a room there has dropped from 28 to 21 months. However, SSH refrains from attributing the drop to the lack of a night bus.
Jan-Willem Huis in 't Veld, Chairman of the Warande Housing Board, also doesn't dare say whether the lack of the night bus is the main reason for students preferring not to live in Zeist. "In any case, De Warande is less popular than the housing complexes in Utrecht, but it could very well be that the reduced accessibility of the complex is one of the factors influencing this."
In his view, many residents of De Warande would love to see the night bus run again. Currently, the last bus to the station leaves a little before 1:00 am. “If you want to go out, it's hard. Cycling back in the dark after a night in the town isn’t an attractive option for many students living in Zeist. It takes much longer to get home and people know it's not safe from experience. Those old stories about rapists around De Uithof are still going around.”
Enriching student experience
Vidius board member Van IJperenburg stresses that the shortage in student rooms is making students more dependent on housing options outside the city of Utrecht, especially in the early years of their studies. "The circle is getting ever larger. Students used to go live in Nieuwegein, for example, but now they're getting rooms all the way in Woerden.”
He argues that it's important for students to spend time in the city centre in the evening, and even more important for those students to be able to travel home safely. “After all, these activities in the evening enrich one's student experience. I don’t mean just partying, but also attending lectures or plays in the evening. It’s important for people to be able to go out without being limited in their mobility.”
Meanwhile, there's been small talk about a shortage of financial and human resources at the province to expand the timetable shortly. Van IJperenburg: "We understand that, but we wonder whether students are on their radar at all. This letter aims to draw attention to their needs."