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The UPV-EHU Leioa-Bizkaia campus

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Asier Garitano Larrabe

The Leioa-Bizkaia university campus is the largest campus of the University of the Basque Country and it is located in the Leioa municipality, in Biscay. Known as the Leioa Campus, was built on the 70s, during the last period of the Franco regime. Due to this, and as it happens with other Spanish universities, it was built away from urban areas and on the top of a hill, in order to isolate the possible revolts that student movements could provoke.

Image 1. Location map of the campus in the Bilbao metropolitan area.

In spite of being away from the city centre, the campus was meant to be place with a lively university live, because its original plan stablished, apart from the faculties, residences, housing and other services. However, this ambitious plan has not been completed, with just the faculties and some services having been built.

Although it is not completed, the Leioa campus is not only the largest university complex in the Basque Country, but one of the largest research centres in the region. This is why the Campus is the arrival point of thousands of people every day.

Due to this reason, mobility is one of the biggest challenges the campus faces. The complex counts with just three accesses, of which one of them absorbs the vast majority of the traffic coming from the Bilbao metropolitan area. This one is the BI-647, a road that has not changed its plot since the 70s, then it was first opened. Besides, since 2005 (when it had a face wash), the road had two lanes to go up the campus, and one lane to go down to the city, so that the situation was not that critic. Nowadays, instead, there is just one lane for each direction and the road gets packed every day.

Image 2. Orthophoto of the campus and its surroundings in 1983. (Source: GeoEuskadi)

Image 3. Orthophoto of the campus and its surroundings of 2017. (Source: GeoEuskadi)

Apart from the private transport, the only public transport serving the university is the Biscay interurban bus service, Bizkaibus. In spite of having a large number of lines serving the campus, most of them go through several municipalities on their way, so students and workers coming from line headers choose to take the car, because taking the bus could mean to even triple the displacement time. In addition to this, buses also suffer the traffic jams created on the access road in rush hour.

A brand-new tram line was started to be built connecting the campus with the metro, but the project was stopped and it has not been retaken. In my opinion, a tram line was not the optimal solution for the problem, as it is a rather non flexible infrastructure that collides with the high variability of the affluence of people to the campus between rush hour and off-peak hour. For this reason, I believe a shuttle bus connecting the campus to the metro could be a viable option, as the shuttle would just take 7 minutes the complete the journey up to Astrabudua metro station. Furthermore, more or less services could be programmed, depending on the time of the day. Together with this, a third lane like the one it used to exist could be a good idea, being this a reversible line just for public transport in order to ensure its competitivity.

Image 4. Possible route of a shuttle bus to the metro. (Source: Google Maps)

As it is quite a large campus, it holds several services. Among the public ones, the biggest library in the Basque country, a Basque Government’s employment centre or a sports centre could be highlighted. Green spaces also deserve to be mentioned. Among the private services, banks, cafeterias or supermarkets can be found.

Despite having various services, they fail to create a solid university life on campus. This may be due to several reasons, on the one hand, to the remoteness of the campus from inhabited urban areas. In addition, the fact that the campus requires a displacement that generally does not go down for half an hour, makes it less attractive, since it is possible that, if the students have short-term days, they do not bother to go if they are going to lose Too much time on the trip or that for long-time students it is a burden to have a long trip to return home after having spent a whole day on campus. On the other hand, another reason that could explain the little use of some of the services is the lack of knowledge of these by the students.

The initial project of the campus previewed the construction of homes and residences, but they have never been carried out, although it is true that the new urbanizations are reaching the edge of the university area.

 Bilbao is a city with growth difficulties due to its orography, but the western part of the campus could be taken into account in future urban planning plans for its growth and possible adhesion of the campus to the urban plot. The residences, on the other hand, are a more realistic possibility in the short term, that having public financing could also be a method for reducing the high rental price in Bilbao.

Also, work must be done to publicize the services offered by the campus such as the sports centre or the employment service through advertising campaigns and at the same time creating new spaces so that full-day stays are more enjoyable for students, through rest areas and leisure establishments.

In conclusion, the Leioa campus is an area with deficiencies in several aspects, caused largely due to its remoteness from consolidated urban areas. However, there are measures that can be taken to solve them, both in matters related to mobility, with the improvement of bus services, and in matters related to services offered on campus, with their promotion and improvement, among others.

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