Editorial: Where am I gonna put my car?

Since 1966, the University of Calgary has grown from a tiny branch of the University of Alberta into a research mini-giant. Their endowments have grown, enrolment has increased and countless new buildings have been constructed to facilitate the U of C’s continued expansion. Unfortunately, parking space lags.

Back in 2006, the university announced their current construction projects as part of a plan to add 7,000 student spaces by 2010. While delays to the urban campus have scuttled these plans, 3,500 students are still to be admitted once the construction of the Taylor Family Digital Library and the Energy, Environment and Experiential Learning building are completed. With the library nearing completion and the EEEL underway, many of those students have already been added. While specific figures won’t likely be available until the winter, estimates peg roughly 1,400 new faces at the U of C this year.

The U of C’s growth is commendable, but like many of its initiatives, its long-term planning needs a bit of work. Adding thousands of students sounds great, but then there’s the issue of class sizes and parking. With none of the new buildings actually open yet — and with some of the new classrooms having specialized functions — the result is lectures and hallways crammed with students.

Even worse is the university’s parking plan. Parking services’ online map has yet to be updated, but a quick perusal of campus reveals that construction has removed four parking lots entirely — lots 20 and 22 by the EEEL and lots 4 and 6 by the digital library — and cut lot 3 capacity in half.

Any economist could tell you what happens as a result of reduced parking capacity and increased student enrolment: full parking lots and higher prices. Daily parking rates have risen in recent years — with “cheap” parking in lots 10 and 11 hitting $4 a day. Compared to downtown rates, university prices are a pittance. However, $4 a day for a student on a fixed income isn’t exactly great.

Worse yet, campus parking passes are increasingly difficult to find. Arguably the best parking on campus, the Art Parkade has been lauded for being centrally located and the most plentiful covered parking on campus — but its high price tag usually meant that passes never sold out. The campus-wide pass crunch has left many students parking and paying day-to-day instead of in advance. The situation will only worsen once the weather cools and campus cyclists jump in their cars, causing parkades to fill faster.

The unfortunate result of this parking nightmare is many students testing fate by parking illegally. Residents in surrounding neighbourhoods have long been plagued by students parking on side streets rather than paying, while Calgary Transit and the local mall routinely sweep the Brentwood parking lot to deter students from parking there and walking to campus. The result has been students parking at the Brentwood or east McMahon Stadium park-and-ride lots and taking the train one stop, basically cluttering up trains needlessly because of a lack of on-campus parking. The addition of the $3 park-and-ride lot fee has further complicated matters, putting students in a payment tug-of-war between the university and Calgary Transit.

The university has continually pushed students to get involved on campus and contribute to a vibrant community. This is great in theory, but administration sends a mixed message when they’re telling students to stay on campus while charging them an arm and a leg for what little parking that’s available. Worse yet, it stands as a shining example of the U of C’s failure at long-term planning. If the university aspires to be a place where the best and brightest gather, they’ve got to have a place to park.

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