U shouldn’t slam the door on drivers

The University’s efforts to foster a sense of campus community are well-founded. The academic life of the institution will improve when more students treat the University as their home, whether they live on or near campus or simply spend more time here. In the past few years, however, one cross-section of the population has been unfairly excluded from this goal. The University has focused its attention on pushing busing at the unnecessary expense of driving commuters.
There are no easy ways to avoid the many hassles associated with commuting to the University, but Parking and Transportation Services and Metro Transit would like students, staff and faculty to think there are. With only 14 percent of students living on campus, 86 percent of students, the commuters, are being targeted for campus togetherness. While those who take a bus should be applauded, drivers are finding acceptance a thing of the past. Thanks to heavy advertising and strategic planning, the bus system — the former transportation underdog — is gaining an administrative edge over driving. Instead of developing a system in which all commuter transportation is accommodated, the University compromised the affordability and availability of campus parking spaces.
Drivers cannot expect to find readily available, reasonably priced parking spaces. Few to none exist on campus. Instead of welcoming its many driving students, the University is alienating them. While Metro Transit adds new bus routes to make commuting more accessible, the University annually raises on-campus parking rates. A single driver who wants to park in the Fourth Street Ramp must arrive before 9 a.m. in order to be eligible for the $3.25 per day commuter rate. Arrive at 9:01, and expect to pay the hourly rate of $1.25. For those who are looking literally to save a buck, the Huron Boulevard lot is available for $2.25 per day. Because the trek from this distant lot to the center of campus is a deterrent for commuters, students can — naturally — take a campus bus from the lot to their destination.
This year, the University offered 1,293 non-residence hall spring quarter parking contracts and 625 residence hall spots. With 31 percent of the parking spaces reserved for 14 percent of the population, commuters are clearly getting the short end of the deal. The University is putting up barriers by making campus accessibility more difficult and time-consuming for drivers. Time is a critical factor in students’ lives. In order to guarantee accessibility to campus, some commuters are forced to plan their class schedules around parking availability guidelines. With so few parking spaces near the most heavily traveled areas of campus, commuters must allow additional time to get to the heart of campus from these parking lots.
Driving some commuters from campus is no way to foster a stronger community. If the University wants to strengthen campus involvement, it won’t do so by alienating drivers. Given enough provocation, some will concede to taking the bus system. But many others will get behind the wheel and drive where they’re more welcome. University planners should reward bus riders with more convenient, frequent and accessible service. Punishing drivers is not the way to go.