Making room for cars on campus

The University and city of Minneapolis should support students who drive to school and end the bias against them.

by Ronald Dixon

In her quest to attract 100,000 new residents to the city, Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges is promoting public transportation, but not increased parking. Although I see the value of mass transit, Hodges does not seem to pay much attention to the city’s drivers, such as University of Minnesota commuters.

In a meeting with transit leaders last month, Hodges asked, “Do we have the kind of transit and transportation network that allows people to live without a car?” the Star Tribune reported Jan. 16. If the city focuses on this attitude, will it not take on challenges to drivers, such as parking?

As a student that drives to campus, I’m worried by the general attitude of ignoring drivers’ needs in order to promote mass transit. Unfortunately, the anti-driving bias has trickled down to the University as well.

First, we can see it through University students’ attitudes. There have been countless occasions on which I have heard presentations in class or protests on campus where students attacked drivers for ruining the environment and making campus more dangerous. While cars aren’t perfect, they are a reality for many students, faculty and staff.

The University District Alliance, a partnership between the University and surrounding neighborhoods, recently recommended a further reduction to the enforced minimum parking requirements around the University. Minneapolis requires one parking spot per residential unit, but areas around the University require 0.5 spaces per bedroom and no less than one space per unit.

If the city of Minneapolis intends to welcome more people, it should also prepare itself for more drivers. With lower parking requirements, the already strained University district could reach a breaking point with parking. This is especially alarming with the rate University neighborhoods have grown in recent years.

Don’t get me wrong; I believe that the University and local government should endorse all forms of transportation. What I dislike, however, is the attitude that because the city wishes to move away from cars, we shouldn’t face drivers’ challenges head on.

I decided to drive to campus because it has allowed me to save money, participate in multiple off-campus internships and spend time with my girlfriend. Public transportation doesn’t fit into my lifestyle because it would be too impractical and inconvenient.

Instead of ignoring the needs of commuters and drivers, the University and city of Minneapolis should come together and forge new policies that meet everyone’s — drivers, cyclists and pedestrians — needs. This means improving public transportation and making roads safer for pedestrians and bikers, but also creating more parking when necessary.

I believe that the University could reduce street parking by lowering the cost of parking passes. Some students opt out of purchasing parking passes for ramps and garages because of high prices, despite the fact that these facilities can be much safer and more practical than street parking. By lowering the rates, there would likely be less parking congestion on roads, clearing the way for buses, bikers and pedestrians. Parking garages are also a more efficient use of land than surface parking.

This is, however, just one idea. City and University leaders should brainstorm and implement a multi-faceted approach to improve transportation on and around campus.