UCT's big squeeze

22 September 2003

Once upon a time: A picture of UCT's upper campus in early times when packing and overcrowding were not even thought of.

It is a well-known fact that parking and overcrowding problems are a constant source of irritation for the many UCT staff and students who frequent upper campus on a daily basis.

But at the September 15 Open Planning Forum, Geoff De Wet, head of the physical planning unit in the Department of Properties and Services, presented various ideas that could provide possible solutions to these problems.

In his presentation entitled The UCT Estate - Today and Tomorrow, De Wet pointed out that in 2003, based on empirical planning formulae, the University was 675 seats short in lecture theatres on upper and middle campus. This despite the 336 new seats already provided.

The outlook for 2004 looks grim. It is predicted that 679 new seats are necessary for the planned enrolment figures, but the provision of only 389 seats is in the pipeline.

Similarly, statistics reveal that overcrowding occurred in 17 courses in 2003 compared to only seven courses in 2002.

"Overcrowding will remain a problem until a mechanism is devised to regulate the number of students attending lectures when courses are split," said De Wet. "Failure to do so will result in several safety issues coming to the fore."

Besides R3-million capital works funding allocated for the upgrading of specific projects in 2004, a possible solution to the overcrowding problem will be the arrival of Syllabus Plus.

This web-based programme will integrate timetabling, staff resources and venue allocations. Its core function is the optimisation of the university's resources and as it will operate on-line, it will be available for all to see.

In addition to high volumes of students, about 4 700 visitors call on the university's upper campus per month, an extremely high figure when one considers that there are only 78 visitor-parking bays available.

De Wet said: "Parking facilities have reached saturation and the current systems in place are not sustainable. With more students owning cars at a younger age and students remaining on campus for longer periods of time, we need to invest in a reliable and safe university transport system. "Integrated with the metropolitan transport system, we will be able to service all campuses and catchment areas surrounding the university," he added.

De Wet believes that having offered better transportation options, such as bus services operating from modal interchanges resulting in various rail 'n ride, park 'n ride, walk 'n ride and bus 'n ride opportunities, the university can then concentrate on improving upper campus as a pedestrian-friendly precinct.

"We need to shift from a perception of motor vehicles as the preferred mode of transport to prioritising the pedestrian," he affirmed.

Despite all its problems, De Wet said that UCT was still comparable with well-known, international institutions that predate the campus.

"UCT's creators, Sir Herbert Baker, Edwin Lutyens and Joseph Soloman, have ensured that we have inherited a very fine building complex," he said. "We all therefore carry the responsibility to look after it and make sure we leave it in a better state than how we found it."

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