Cars on Campus

by Jessica Vermeer

Being in an automotive student team, I spend a lot of time thinking about the future of mobility. At TU/ecomotive, our focus lies with the development and ownership of cars. However, our university seems to be discouraging car usage every day. This is done, for example, by preventing the construction of enough parking spots for their personnel. In the near future, fees for parking on campus will be added to the list of measures aimed at lowering the number of cars on campus. In order to judge the effectiveness of this policy, we need to determine why people decide to take their car.

This question needs to be answered in two steps. The first one is to determine why people own cars in the first place. What drives their decision to buy this expensive thing that uses overpriced fuel and keeps losing value over time? According to statistics , ownership of one or more cars is very directly linked to wealth. The percentage of car owners turns out to be linear with ascending income categories. If the main criterion is money, the decision to purchase a car will not change when the home to work distance or parking circumstances do.

This leads us to the second step. When your car is parked in front of your house, how do you decide whether or not to use it? The alternatives are probably public transportation and a bicycle. These are methods of transportation that the university tries to encourage. However, there is no way of influencing public transportation. After all, it’s ‘public’. The important characteristics for deciding your manner of transportation, like flexibility, comfort and price, are determined by a third party. And, to be honest, the scores of public transportation on these criteria are most certainly not excellent. Furthermore, the decision to ride a bicycle depends mainly on distance and, of course, the weather.

A car scores better on all these criteria. It can be used whenever you want to, it is comfortable and as clean as you want it to be. In addition to that it keeps these high scores when the weather gets rough. Public transportation doesn’t even get close and neither do bicycles. Changing the number of parking spots or applying an extra fee for parking near your workplace are a negligible factor in the final decision. However, these measures do have other effects. Your employees will get annoyed and try to park their car off campus. The result is moody employees who lose a lot of time and money parking their cars.

A car discouragement policy has practically zero chance of being effective. It is a way of bullying your personnel while at the same time trying to make some money. The people working for the TU/e are the intelligent top of society. It is an insult to let them waste time and attention on parking their car. They could use this time and attention a whole lot better to develop, for example, an efficient infrastructure or electric cars. These things reduce emissions, far more than politics or a lack of good roads. The vision in which cars are bad and ought to be eliminated is superficial. Looking at the facts, we see there’s no point in trying to make them an unattractive alternative. It’s time for our employer to realize this and act on it.