Searching for Answers to a Historical Campus Conunfrum

Most college students can probably relate to Maria Lopez, Wesley Higgins and Mike Machian.

After searching 20 minutes for an open parking spot, Lopez said, “I’ve been late to class so many times because it takes too long to park.”

An angry Higgins called parking enforcement officers on campus “an integral part of a system to extort money from students.”

Machian observed, “In order to get to a 10 a.m. class on time, you have to be in line [for parking] shortly after 9 a.m.”

University of Utah students surely understand their sentiments. Lopez, Higgins and Machian are fellow students battling each day to find a parking place on campus.

But not on the University of Utah campus. Lopez is a senior at University of California Berkeley. Higgins can be found fuming at the University of Florida (UF). And Machian wages his parking war at the University of Nebraska-Omaha (UNO).

Lopez, Higgins, Machian and U students share a frustration of college students that transcends location and time: finding a place to park.

A cursory?and amusing?review of college newspapers across the country reveals an unfortunate observation: Most universities and college students are wrestling with parking. And the outlook is not improving.

Nothing seems to rile students like waiting for parking. In January, U student Derrick Albiston said, “At times, I find myself driving around looking for a parking spot for up to an hour.”

A University of Maine music major said, “I have heard teachers say they had to drive around for a half hour and then use meter parking.” In 1996, U student Erica Hansen called parking, “the worst part of my day.”

The cost of parking?which students everywhere complain is high?adds insult to the injury of not being able to find parking.

At UNO, students felt perturbed earlier this year when the cost of annual parking permits rose by $10?to $45. A student reacted by saying, “Forty-five dollars for a parking pass does seem quite steep.”

On our campus, a U Pass costs $120.

While most everyone feels discouraged with parking at some time, a few people get downright nasty. In May, one U student said people in parking services “obviously don’t have any sort of education.”

Parking officers get the most specific criticism. At UF, a guest opinion columnist likened a parking officer to “a Gestapo officer,” a comparison former Daily Utah Chronicle columnist Christian Arial also made. Other sensitive names Arial tossed around were “bicycled bozos” and “Lycra bound ticket minions.”

Other students attribute the outrageous acts of parking services by subscribing to a conspiracy theory. An employee of the U called parking service’s tactics a “money-making scheme.” The U’s parking services is “a possible monopoly,” according to one student.

Upset college students who have had enough of shelling out cash for parking will do all sorts of crazy things to get out of paying parking fees and tickets.

At the U, the passenger of a car told one pay lot attendant that he’d pull a gun if she didn’t let them pass without paying. Someone else tried to speed past a pay lot attendant without paying, breaking the gate arm as he sped through. At Berkeley, motorists are jamming special theft resistant meters with papers and foreign coins, leaving the meters useless.

When parking upsets them, some students just get dramatic.

UF’s Higgins again comes through. He called officers’ “selective enforcement” of parking rules?like not ticketing half the city of Gainesville during football games?”a travesty of justice.”

The editorial board of UNO’s student newspaper, Gateway, showed similar dramatics.

After the school’s chancellor reserved 100 parking stalls for guests of a special dinner, Gateway’s editors made this declaration: “Taking away parking spots takes away students’ rights.” Please.

All of the student actions and reactions listed above highlight the obvious difficulty: Universities have serious parking problems.

Can anything be done to correct them?

At the U, if history is any indicator, the answer to that question is not encouraging.

Recently, Associated Students of the University of Utah leaders presented a parking initiative to U President Bernie Machen.

Their hope, according to The Daily Utah Chronicle, was that President Machen would “set up a team of administrators, students and parking service officials to look for reasonable?solutions to parking problems.” This plan has garnered substantial support.

However, in light of the plan, consider the following report from The Chronicle under the headline, “ASUU Senators Set Traffic Probe.” The report said that the ASUU Senate had announced “an impending investigation of the campus traffic situation,” which the report said had “grown worse during the year.”

Sound familiar? It probably shouldn’t, considering the report was from Jan. 12, 1961.

More than 40 years ago, student leaders gathered a task force to examine parking problems. Has much changed since then?

The main reasons for parking problems listed in 1961 are almost identical to those found today. The 1961 report said that there were 8,700 registered vehicles on campus and just 5,500 parking spaces. The same problem still exists, as students complain that parking services shouldn’t sell more parking passes than parking spots. Students at the Universities of Nebraska and Florida make the same complaint.

In 1961, U parking officials’ explanations for the parking problems were that “students ignore the ample space in [certain] areas in order to park nearer to classes.”

In October of 2001, U student Travis Pierson argued the same point?that in certain lots farther from classes, ample parking places are always open, and students simply park elsewhere.

So is the entire parking furor much ado about nothing?

If history repeats itself?which it seems to have done in remarkable fashion?it probably is.

In UNO’s Gateway, Stephen Croucher encapsulated the whole parking debate in one short sentence: “Parking, what a mess.”

Well said.

Perhaps the best advice to get students through their parking life at the U is simply this recent statement by ASUU President Ben Lowe: “It’s important that students are patient.”