There was a time in 2012 when Phillip Hardy found himself spending more than three hours trying to get home from university.
The commerce-law student was studying at the University of Wollongong and living in Campbelltown. There was a bus that made the direct trip in about an hour, but that bus stopped after 5.40pm and if Hardy had any late classes or any out-of-hours exams, that meant catching a train to the city and then another service out west for a journey that could edge up to four hours.
''I would have to go around the world to try to get home,'' he says.
The location of campuses and the availability of transport are among the big factors high-school students must consider when choosing a university.
A McGregor Tan Research report, based on a survey of high-school students, showed, naturally enough, that course choice had the heaviest bearing on where they studied. However, 67 per cent said their decision was affected by the location of the campus, and 38 per cent nominated public-transport options as having a bearing. This was more than those who nominated the quality of teaching staff or the employment opportunities for graduates, according to the 2007 study.
When it comes to the accessibility of universities in NSW, it is hard to go past the University of Sydney in Camperdown and the University of Technology, Sydney, in Ultimo.
While parking might be extremely limited (and expensive) at both campuses, students and staff have some of the best transport options in Sydney. The universities' main campuses lie near train stations servicing multiple lines (Redfern for Sydney University and Central for UTS), and both are near major bus corridors.
But with road congestion getting worse, it is no surprise that less-than-ideally situated universities are scrambling to try to make it easier for students to get to them.
They are doing this in part by lobbying governments for better road and public transport options, but they are also implementing their own initiatives, such as bike paths and incentives for students and staff to car pool.
The manager of sustainability at Macquarie University, Hilary Beckman, says the university has made significant inroads since it started to focus on improving transport options in 2008. The big difference was the opening of the Epping to Chatswood Rail Link in 2009. This delivered Macquarie University Station, the only one in Sydney within a campus.
The impact has been marked. About 17,000 people a day use the station, making it the most heavily used on the new line.
Five years ago, 38 per cent of Macquarie University students drove to class. But in 2012, according to student surveys, that proportion had dropped to less than 30 per cent.
''We did a survey at the end of last year, and the [entries in the comments field were] vastly different to when we started unfolding transport initiatives in 2008,'' Beckman says. ''Now it's pretty positive. Parking is always everyone's bugbear; if anyone says anything negative, it's always about parking.''
As well as the train line, the university has built new bike paths, lockers and showers, and has started to offer reserved (if not policed) parking spaces for shared cars.
If Macquarie University has benefited from a government policy in the form of a new train line, the University of NSW is also due to benefit from a tram line.
In 2012, the O'Farrell government committed to build a tram line from Circular Quay, past Central Station, to outside UNSW on Anzac Parade. The line, provided the government fulfils its pledge, should be finished by the end of the decade.
On the numbers, the case for a tram line to UNSW - which has been vocal in its support for the initiative - is compelling. The university says the route between Central Station and UNSW is the busiest point-to-point bus corridor in the state, carrying 17,000 people in each direction.
Trams will offer a similar service to buses, but they should be faster and will be able to carry even more people.
In line with the trend across the city, surveys of UNSW students show they are, on average, taking longer to get to campus than they were five years ago. Perhaps because of this, there has also been a steady increase in public transport travel to the eastern suburbs campus. In 2007, 50 per cent of students travelled by public transport to university. That figure rose in 2012 to 63 per cent.
The university has also been sponsoring a car pool scheme.
The transport challenges of the University of Western Sydney, with campuses at Bankstown, Blacktown, Campbelltown, Hawkesbury, Parramatta and Penrith, reflect those of the region, which has long suffered from neglected public transport services compared with inner areas.
The director of Campus Safety and Security at UWS, Adam Byrne, says the university has a higher proportion of students driving themselves to campus than other unis. He says one of the UWS's main initiatives is providing incentives for car pooling.
''It's actually going really well,'' Byrne says. ''The car-pool project is a mix of industry and government
agencies across western Sydney, and UWS has the highest usage of all the clients. I've dedicated spaces on the campuses where I actually allow you to park for free as a way of encouraging alternative transport.''
So far, about 400 students have signed up to the car-pool project.
And what of the University of Wollongong's Hardy? Upset about the limited transport options between Wollongong and Campbelltown, he joined a campaign for more regular and late-night bus services between the Illawarra campus and south-west Sydney. The pitch won the support of state opposition MP Walt Secord, who raised the problem in parliament. By halfway through the second semester of 2012, the number of buses had been increased.
''The campaign worked - they listened,'' Hardy says. Bus times were changed to hourly, instead of three times a day, and an evening service was put on from 7.30pm.
If nothing else, long hours on the train can be time spent honing one's skills as a student politician.