Problems of lower parking minimums

A lower parking minimum would exacerbate problems around campus.

While increasing density and transit options are certainly admirable goals, the Minnesota Daily’s Editorial Board fails to consider the impacts of a change in parking policy to the entire campus community (“U area needs lower parking minimums,” Feb. 4). In particular, graduate and professional students are likely to suffer without a holistic plan that includes robust transit throughout the region.

The current transit system is woefully insufficient. Graduate students often find themselves working on campus late into the night or on weekends, beyond the reach of bus schedules. The recent deluge of crime alerts has caused many students to feel uncomfortable waiting in the open for infrequent, often delayed service. Cold weather and poor road conditions force many bikers to hang up their helmets in the winter. While the light-rail system is expanding, it’s not likely the system will be anything near complete by the time that policy changes have an impact on parking availability in the campus area. Resolving these issues will not be easy — one need only look at the chaos surrounding the Southwest Light Rail proposal to understand the difficulties transit proponents face.

At the same time, graduate and professional students are facing two worrying trends. First, as budgets have tightened, the level of support offered to post-baccalaureate students has plummeted. Second, the redevelopment efforts around campus have significantly increased rents. As a result, more and more graduate and professional students live farther away from campus and must commute.

In the midst of all this, developers are bulldozing parking lots and replacing them with residential buildings that don’t even have enough parking for their own residents, let alone campus area visitors. These plans may be justified from the point of view of residents who do not own a car, but they do not consider the external impact. Put it all together, and you get more cars competing for fewer spots, which means higher congestion, longer travel times and bigger headaches.

I support the city’s goal of increasing density and population, and I believe that transit is key to growth. But we should not change the parking rules simply to save developers a few dollars on construction. Any change to parking requirements must come with a comprehensive development and transit plan that takes into account the needs of the entire campus community, not just a few.