Parking: Hard on campus but UMass has it right
Driving on campus is horrible. For pedestrians, drivers are annoying, immature and seem like they’re just waiting for the opportunity to run someone over. For drivers, pedestrians delay them up to five minutes at a time. They walk out into the road without looking and seem to be trying to get run over so they can pay their fees with the insurance money. The only thing they can agree on is a hatred of cyclists.
But even worse than driving on campus is the Lovecraftian nightmare of parking. Cthulhu himself couldn’t have devised a better method of driving us mad, shattering our delusions about the nature of reality than parking services has.
Nevertheless, I believe that parking on campus is the best it can be.
There are three main factors at work with parking. The first is the scarcity of parking, the second is the cost of parking permits and the third is geography.
Scarcity, the principle of supply and demand, makes us realize that there is very little parking available on campus, but a very high demand for it. Unlike many goods, parking spaces cannot be mass produced. Instead, if we want to increase the number of parking spaces, we need to build parking lots or parking garages, both of which can be costly. They also take up space, which is at a premium. The main problem is an economic one – we can flatten and pave over a large area for more parking spaces or we can build a new science lab or dormitory. In the long run, a useful building is more valuable than a parking lot. Not that parking lots are never expanded. According to the parking services website, with the University Apartments finally being torn down, Lot 52 will be expanded for next semester. This won’t have much effect on demand, but hey, they’re trying.
The cost of parking permits seems outrageous to many people. When my friend Thom went to get a permit for the first time, and was told they cost $300, he thought they were joking. Undergraduate students bear the brunt of permit costs and parking scarcity. The parking services fee chart shows that those freshmen, sophomores, juniors, seniors and even some graduate students are limited to green (commuter), purple (resident) and yellow lots for $310, $275 and $220, respectively. A lower-garage permit is $877. Members of the Graduate Employee Organization get much lower rates, as do resident staff. Permits are sold on a first-come-first-serve basis, with access to specific lots based on seniority and availability. No one gets special treatment. Considering the demand for good parking and the fact that the permit prices are flat within their categories, parking services is very likely undercharging for permits.
This brings me to my next point: geography. We have a big, hilly campus, much of which was used before the internal combustion engine was invented. In other words, this campus was originally designed for walking. This is most apparent on North Pleasant Street. If you were going to build it now, you’d want North Pleasant to be four lanes for cars and have skywalks for pedestrians. Central, Northeast, Orchard Hill and Sylvan Residential Areas are all built into the hillside, which limits the amount of space available for parking. Hell, every time I’m on the Amity Shuttle bus and it makes that turn through Lot 49 to get to the Dickinson stop, I think the bus is going to overturn because it’s so tight.
As a result of the cramped, hilly, tiny confines of campus, new parking lots have to be built far away. The largest lots around are the ones across Massachusetts Avenue from the Haigis Mall, the ones across from Southwest and the ones on Commonwealth Avenue. Unsurprisingly, these lots are also the farthest from everything.
The main problem with the parking situation is that too many people have cars and want to bring them to campus. Enough is enough. Be honest with yourselves people. Most of you – especially those of you who live on campus – don’t need cars right now. You can walk. You can carpool. You can even take the bus. A car is a financial albatross. It just hangs around your neck losing value despite all the cash you pump into it. Not only that, between the extra gas you use dashing off to wherever and the gas that gets wasted in the inevitable traffic jam because everyone is driving at once, you contribute to global climate change.
Save your money, save the world and lose weight because of the extra walking you’ll be doing. Leave the parking to the people who need it. Oh, and get yourself a comfy pair of shoes.
Matt Robare is a Collegian columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.