Original Article By Eoin English of the Irish Examiner
Hundreds of students also staged a walkout of classes just after 11am to highlight their calls for more frequent and reliable bus services, for more campus parking, and for massive State investment in affordable student accommodation
Students mounted a temporary blockade of the staff car park at Munster Technological University’s (MTU) main Cork campus on Tuesday to highlight their campaign for improved public transport links and for more parking options.
Hundreds of students also staged a walkout of classes just after 11am to highlight their calls for more frequent and reliable bus services, for more campus parking, and for massive State investment in affordable student accommodation close to the Bishopstown campus.
MTU Student Union president Isobel Kavanagh told a mass rally of students in the college canteen that they temporarily blocked the main staff car park on Tuesday morning to give senior university staff a taste of the parking difficulties faced by many students daily who have no option but to drive to college.
Students cheered as she said:
“When they came in for 9am because they always think they are guaranteed their parking space, they had to go and find parking just like every single one of ye. I hope they aren’t silly and park on the grass or they might see a big yellow clamp on their car.”
She said parking in and around MTU had been a serious issue for many years and was worsening as student numbers grow, with the parking problems spilling over into neighbouring housing estates.
The problem is exacerbated by the lack of student accommodation, forcing many students who live in county towns to drive to college instead, she said.
Slava Storojuc, 39, a mature second-year business studies student from Mallow, faced a five-hour daily bus commute last year to get to and from college some 40kms away.
“It was too much so I had to make a decision — either I continue to study here and find another way of getting here, or I leave the course — so I had to buy a car. I had to finance it myself, which isn’t easy when you are a student,” he said.
“Now I spend three hours a day commuting. But if I don’t get here by 8.30am, if there is any delay on the way, I have no hope of finding a parking space. And I was clamped here three weeks ago. The fine was €80.
“I want MTU to come up with a clear strategy that takes into account the rising number of students.”
Roman Morenko, 17, fled the war in Ukraine with his mother and younger sister to settle in Clonakilty just over 18 months ago and is now studying software development at MTU.
He makes the 50km journey to college daily by bus, leaving home at 7am, and often not getting home until 9pm some days.
“I would like for the buses to be more reliable, because they are constantly late, and for more frequent buses, because sometimes I have to wait for an hour for a bus home,” he said.
“And if accommodation was more affordable for students, I could move up to the city. It’s not too easy to study when you spend three hours every day on a bus. I don’t have a lot of free time.”
Second-year mechanical engineering student Connor Cody lives in Glanmire and said his option was to face a two-bus cross-city journey which could take up to two hours, or drive and arrive at college before 8am to secure parking.
“It’s nightmarish trying to find parking,” he said.
He said students want to see MTU introduce a park and ride service, which was piloted previously from the greyhound stadium at nearby Curraheen Park, and an extension of the 208 bus route from Marymount to MTU.
Ms Kavanagh said MTU authorities must come up with a plan to cope with the growing numbers of students, which includes more frequent buses, especially at peak times.
“Students are facing unbelievable levels of stress just to get to all of our campuses and to get to classes,” she said. “Day in and day out, students are waiting for buses to arrive in the mornings and sometimes, when they do arrive, they are already full.
“On the other hand, students are unable to get buses from certain towns and because of this, and the lack of affordable student accommodation, many students have to drive to college.”
In a statement, MTU said access to its Bishopstown campus was the subject of ongoing discussion with relevant stakeholders and authorities, and it was exploring off-campus parking including park and ride options, that it was working with local transport authorities to improve public transport options, especially at peak travel times, that it encouraged car-pooling, the use of public transport, walking and cycling, and that it had improved cycling facilities and access, including a new location of the city bike share scheme on campus.
But Ms Kavanagh said: “Ultimately, MTU spends too much time dwelling on decisions and simply misses the opportunities to avail of solutions that present themselves. This lack of decision-making is having a massive effect on all students and staff.”
Student leaders plan to continue their campaign by targeting MTU’s open day for prospective students.