Spending hours travelling to and from university is a burden many rural and regional students are forced to face, and they are quickly becoming fed up with it.
A number of students and parents have expressed concerns on social media in recent weeks regarding the lack of available parking for those travelling to the University of Newcastle (UON) from areas like Singleton.
Local resident, Sharon Cameron believes the current facilities just aren’t good enough and allocated spaces should be available for rural students. With a daughter currently enrolled at UON, Sharon believes more needs to be done to support students making the long and stressful commute.
“Singleton students have to leave up to three hours early to make sure they can get a parking space and many times they are forced to park illegally,” she says.
“This means students are getting parking [infringements].
“It’s not in the interest of the university to build more parking facilities because they profit from the parking fines.”
According to the Office of State Revenue, UON collected over $300,000 from parking infringements during the 2016/2017 intake, more than double the amount they received in the 2012/2013 period.
In a statement released by the Newcastle University Student Association (NUSA), transport convener Bobbie Antonic said that students should not receive fines for parking illegally at the university when spaces are so limited.
“Students should not be punished for trying to attend their classes just because the parking facilities are inadequate,” Bobbie stated.
But it’s not just the state of the parking that’s raising concerns. Lack of public transport has also left rural students feeling more isolated than ever. Current UON student, Liz Scroope is one of many who are passionate about making change in this area.
“When this issue is approached to the university their usual comment is [that] the lack of parking is to push students to use alternative transportation such as public transport, walk or ride a bike,” Liz says.
“As noted previously, for rural students this just isn't possible.”
Liz’s concerns reflect what local activist group, ‘Two More Trains for Singleton’ has been trying to remedy for years. Liz has created an online petition to encourage changes to the current transport and parking options, with the petition attracting over 1500 signatures already.
UON however believe that they have implemented a number of strategies to balance the supply of parking spaces for staff and students while adhering to its responsibility to encourage sustainable transport options.
A spokesperson for UON said, “two new parking facilities were opened in 2015, providing additional 500 parking spaces on campus.”
“At the beginning of semester, demand for parking on campus is higher and eases as students familiarise themselves with the campus.”
During 2016, UON also implemented a new app called ‘rideshare’ which connects passengers and drivers through a secure private network. The campus has dedicated parking bays available for these carpooling options, which is a great alternative for regional students.