Archive Opinion The Orion

Pursuit of parking stalls students

January 1, 2007

Rational people would take $72 and put it toward food, textbooks or even a nice romantic evening on the town. Instead, I spent that for the right to fight for a parking space.

I’ve heard all about how hard it is to find parking even with a permit. It’s no surprise the university oversells parking permits. It’s a common practice. The question is, by how much? With the amount of time and effort I put into finding a space, it didn’t look like it would be a small number.

Thursday helped reinforce this belief. After getting into the parking structure, I came across a long train of cars. Rule of thumb: When there’s a line, it’s not worth the time. But before I could slide into reverse, I was no longer the caboose. The rational side of me said to turn around and check the other lots, but the stubborn idiot behind the wheel hoped to find a spot.

Ten minutes later, as the last spot at the Third and Orange streets lot was filled, I surrendered the last of my change to a parking meter.

Surely this must be the exception to the rule, you say. There’s no way it could possibly be that bad every day. The only way to figure this out would be through a totally unscientific and anonymous survey of students who just finished parking.

Here’s a funny thing about trying to do a survey after people park before class – you barely introduce yourself, and you learn so much more.

Before I could say, “Hi, I’m Kyle Buis from The Ori-,” I was verbally knocked down the stairs. All seven people I talked to can be summed up in one sentence.

“I’m late because I spent the last (10-30) minutes trying to find a spot.”

Sometimes though, actions speak louder than words. A silver Nissan circled the second floor of the structure twice and then stopped halfway down an aisle. Finally, he gave in and joined a chain of 17 cars that slowly slid around the top of the building and spiraled out to continue their futile search.

After seeing that many drivers leave disappointed, I made a few phone calls and learned there were about 1,200 parking spaces on campus. That number takes into account the 65 parking spaces that were sacrificed for the Wildcat Activity Center, which is coming – eventually.

An official with Student Financial Services said 1,801 permits were made available this semester, and there were even a couple that hadn’t been sold. For every parking space, one-and-a-half permits are sold.

While that number was much lower than the 2,000- to 3,000-permit estimates I heard in my student interviews, it’s still high. When a train of nearly 20 cars is circling the building and students are running late to class, something isn’t working.

Back in the 2004 Associated Students elections, 70 percent of students voted to approve a measure that would restrict the sale of parking permits to students living within a mile of campus.

A mile away from campus translates into a short walk or even a brisk bike ride to get to class. It’s a chance to get outside and enjoy the weather instead of suffering through the stop-and-go of the Great Parking Lot Hunt.

With that many students granting approval and the many benefits of their decision, there was no real reason not to enact this. Instead, the measure fell by the wayside because nobody wanted to create a system to verify addresses.

All it would take is making a list of students to set beside the cashier when the permits go on sale.

The only logical argument against this would be that other personal information would be at risk. If only local addresses and names are on the list, this system could work. Students are required to keep a local address on file to get mailings and important information from the university.

Instead, cars circle the parking lots, spewing pollution into the air, and students run late to class. All because somebody can’t print a list.