Parking’s changes are cause for celebration

The improvements to the campus parking situation to which Parking and Transportation Services agreed stunningly enhance the quality of life of students at the University. This is not because of the new policies themselves, but because they represent something rarely seen from our intransigent bureaucracies: a change for the better. Henceforth, the idea that all news from University bureaucracies is bad news has been shattered. Congratulations to the Council of Graduate Students — who somehow managed to motivate these changes without unionization — for getting the voice of the University’s customers heard.
The changes agreed to last week after a year of discussion represent a turnabout in campus parking policy. Effective July 1, parking in campus ramps will be free for students during evenings and on Sundays. Hours at the ramps have been extended, and event rates will no longer be charged. In addition, improvements were made in the contract agreements for graduate students. These changes do not mean parking will be free for students, but they will make life a little more convenient for those who attend the University.
In the past, whenever a change was made in campus parking policy, it almost always involved a raise in rates or the elimination of spaces. Certainly, a number of ramps have opened up on campus in the past years, and it would be unfair to deny their existence. However, especially on evenings and weekends, ramps have sat empty when student drivers would like to have filled them. With the changes that are being implemented, excess capacity will now be filled, but more importantly, Parking and Transportation Services will have generated a more valuable commodity: student good will.
The rates reform in University ramps stems from a customer service focus from which a lot of campus organizations could learn. Whereas private companies boast about their service as something that differentiates them from their competitors, University organizations, because their customers have nowhere else to go, are not forced to compete in this arena. As a result, student complaints about the service they receive seem to go unheard.
But now we have an organization that has listened to student concerns and subsequently reformed. The lesson is one that should also be learned by students. The new Minnesota Student Association president, Ben Bowman, has an agenda that involves asking for changes from University establishments. Bowman should contact the Council of Graduate Students for advice on how they got things done. Meet with those people and learn from their experience. In doing so, perhaps MSA can prove the cynics wrong and generate even more change.
For now, though, let us celebrate the new parking policies. University students are a fickle bunch, but they should reward positive behavior. If you are someone who has complained, written a letter to the editor or otherwise consumed oxygen whining about the parking situation, get off your keister and call or write a letter to the people who have improved all of our lives. Say thank you to Bob Baker and the nice people at Parking and Transportation Services for making our school just a little more user-friendly.