Photo DUB

Bus 12 more and more crowded during morning rush hour

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The number of passengers getting on bus 12 to De Uithof from Utrecht Central Station in the mornings has increased by over 10 percent in the past three years. The province of Utrecht keeps urging the university to spread out the class schedule.

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This past September, more than 103,000 passengers got on to bus 12 at the Central Station between 7 and 10 a.m. Three years ago, that number was at 92,850 – which means there’s been a 11.5 percent increase. Around half of all passengers travel between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m., according to data from the province of Utrecht.

The extreme crowds in the infamous buses have been bothering people for years. Every day, around 25,000 passengers use bus 12 for their commute. In the past few years, several measures were taken to attempt to relieve some of the pressure on the 12: new and improved bus connections were introduced between De Uithof and regional municipalities and smaller train stations, for example.

The number of passengers that got on to bus 12 at Utrecht Central Station:

 

7.00h - 8.00h

8.00h- 9.00h

9.00h-10.00h

rush hour total

September 2016

17522

47703

27625

  92850

September 2017

19278

47631

29868

  96777

September 2018

21718

52615

29240

103573

Increase 2016-2018

24 percent

10 percent

6 percent

11,5 percent

Source: Province of Utrecht 

The fact that Utrecht University of Applied Sciences (HU) has slowly but surely moved its buildings to De Uithof, has increased the pressure on the buses. Students from the faculty of Nature and Technology, as well as support staff, moved from the Oudenoord and Nijenoord locations near the city centre to Utrecht Science Park. The HU opened a new building at the Heidelberglaan, and renovated a number of older buildings. Midway through 2017, the HU also opened a new library for the entire institution at the Padualaan. But aside from the HU, there was also the Princess Máxima centre for pediatric oncology, for example, that opened its doors.

Last year, the municipality board agreed to a motion that would urge the city administration to work together with the province and find solutions for the ‘sardines in a can’-like transportation to De Uithof. Especially since the new tram has faced some serious delays.

Ron van Dopperen, spokesperson for the province, says the motion has led to additional initiatives, including six extra buses during the morning and evening rush hours. “I think we’ve set the right example with this.”

Now, he says, the ball’s in the court of the educational institutions. The HU and the UU should schedule their classes differently, spread out through the day. The province refers to success stories from Nijmegen.

Spreading classes
Asking educational institutions to spread out their classes isn’t new. After the motion had been filed, the province had already uttered the same. The UU and HU had taken measures in the recent past as well: the company hours of the HU have been broadened, and since the start of the year, study programmes have been able to schedule their classes between 8 a.m. and 7 p.m. 

In an interview with DUB last month, HU president Jan Bogerd said he’s not too enthused about aligning starting times of classes with the UU. “Our students have 12 to 15 hours of classes a week, and it’s absolutely not the case that all classes start at 9. Bus 12 is also fully packed the whole day long.”

Spokesperson for the province Van Dopperen acknowledges that bus 12 is generally quite crowded regardless of the time. “But in the off-peak hours, we’ve still got a 20 percent residual capacity. With better schedule spreading, you could use that capacity.”

A spokesperson for the HU adds that students’ behaviour is difficult to influence. “We’re seeing many students who like studying in De Uithof the whole day, for example, or who like to meet up with their work groups before classes start in the morning to prepare. Those students like using the facilities we have here, and therefore travel during rush hour.”

Timeslot model
The UU also says it’s already doing a lot to spread classes throughout the day. More and more lectures are scheduled between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m., for example. Innovative educational concepts such as blended learning can also help in this. Applying digital learning methods could, in some cases, perhaps replace large-scale lectures (and the enormous inflow of students that goes along with them).

Regardless, the university says there’s a shortage of classrooms, which means it remains necessary to plan classes in the mornings. It’s not easy to just decide to make classes start later in the mornings: it would mean a rigorous upheaval of the scheduling. The UU says it’s quite attached to the current timeslot model, in which courses start and end at fixed times throughout the entire university. The model enables all students to take elective courses at other parts of the university.

Van Dopperen is not convinced: “It’s a mystery to me why the university can’t think of a solution to this.”

Tram will be crowded as well
The province says it’s not the case that the launch of the Uithof tram will be the solution to all problems. The expectation at the moment is that the tram’s capacity will be sufficient for the next three to four years. During rush hours, 16 trams will run each hour, each of them replacing around four to five extra-long buses.

But the number of passengers will also keep growing, for instance when the new RIVM (the Dutch Institute for Public Health and the Environment) and International School buildings, both of which are being constructed in De Uithof, are ready to use. In 2020, the daily number of passengers is estimated to be around 34,000 already. The idea is that by then, the trams will be expanded from 66 to 75 metres.

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