The Pain of Parking

Alec Weisman, Editor-in-Chief
Contributions from Daniel Church, Business Manager

Over the last few weeks, the problems of finding a parking space has reached critical mass. Student frustration with the administration is at an all time high, as more spots have been reallocated to “A” and “B” spots from the already limited number of “S” spots, and students have had enough. The frustration has culminated in a petition through the Associated Students which has nearly 3,000 signature. Despite widespread anger at the reduction of “S” spots, there are some people that support the reduction.

I’ll spend a brief time critiquing the arguments in favor of the cuts in “S” spots to explain why their ambitions are misguided before I get constructive and offer several potential solutions.

PART I: The Arguments

Argument #1: Parking is equivalent to attending a football game or concert, and just because you bought a ticket you don’t have the right to sit on the sidelines.
People have sought to compare parking at UCSD to buying tickets for a Chargers game or a concert. however just because tickets sell out does not mean the management can suddenly decide to over sell tickets and tell people whoever gets there first after buying a ticket gets in, but everyone else can’t. Not only is that unethical, but can be considered to be very bad marketing and publicity. Sadly, when the school has a monopoly on parking, there is no way to lower the price of permits, (which were actually recently raised to the even more exorbitant rate of $732).

What do we, the undergraduate population, receive from this fee hike? We get fewer “S” spots, no likelihood of an increase in “S” spots, and claims that at the start of next year UCSD will soon begin to charge for nights and weekends. We also get threats that Transportation and Parking Services (TPS) will begin cutting shuttle service and/or frequency to parts of the campus. In addition TPS prorates the price of parking permits on the first and sixteenth of each month, so unless you bought your permit at the beginning of the year for $660 (like I did), you will have now be charged nearly $100 more than I was. To charge people for a service they expect to receive and then to deny them access to that service is misleading.

Some students left their cars in an “S” space over Winter Break, and received an unwelcome surprise. The administration ticketed these cars when parking spots were repainted from “S” spots to “A” and “B” spots. This occurred in both the Sixth College Parking lot (P406) and in the Revelle Parking Lot (P 102). They are also changing the way visitors can park, as in lot P506, whereby Visitor permits will soon be tied to the space in which you park, rather than the amount of time you pay for. This practice will prevent people from moving from one visitor parking spot to a different parking spot, limiting mobility of the visitor. These actions are shameful, and students should receive an email notifying them of such secretive actions.

Argument 2: By reducing the number of “S” permits, the administration encourages students to rely upon public transportation.
Although public transportation is a very nice option for students to have, it is unreasonable to expect that to be the primary solution to the problem of cutting parking spots on campus. In fact, the real problem lies in the increased enrollment by over 7,000 undergraduate students over the last 10 years by the university coupled with cuts to “s” spots by the Parking Office, by approximately 2,000 spots. Breaking the law by parking in UTC and surrounding malls/surface streets and then taking the shuttles in to campus is not a solution either. All this accomplishes are students who try to game the system and it hurts both local businesses and their peers. Also at peak times of shuttle traffic, shuttles are often full to capacity, turning students away to wait 15-30 minutes for the next bus to arrive, reducing student productivity even when the shuttles are running most efficiently.

Argument 3: UCSD won’t change their policies because undergraduates at this school are their last priority and concern. So why bother fighting them?
Personally, I agree that UCSD sees undergraduates as mere dollar signs, which leads to a rinse and repeat policy whereby they treat us like cattle. Rather than bitch about capitalism (which certain people have done as well) it should be known that because UCSD is a public institution, the school can get away with having a coercive monopoly over both parking services and housing and dining services… Therefore if you dislike monopolies, then you should be fighting against the fact that UCSD is a public institution that uses your money to screw you over…

***Sidenote: Just for the record, just because a person buys stuff does not mean they support capitalism, it only means that they engage in consumerism (which is not free market capitalism). As long as the government is picking the winners and losers rather than just regulating businesses and contracts, it is interfering in the markets and producing its own monopolies (HDH & Transportation Services ring any bells?).

Argument 4: If you have to buy a permit, find alternatives and deal with the inconvenience by managing your schedule around traffic.
Although this argument derives from the previous argument, the suggestion to deal with the reduction of “S” spots and to bear the burden. Those who make this argument want us, the affected students, to readjust our lives around getting classes after 4:30. After all, after 4:30, we can park almost wherever we want on campus.

The problem with the aforementioned argument is that it is possible but very unfeasible to have classes only after 4:30 at this university. Most students don’t have the choice to have classes after this time unless they are fortunate. Also, students’ lives are more dynamic than simply going to class. Many students work and have to consider their hours of both class and work, especially transfers and commuters. To say that these students should build their life’s schedule around parking availability is both presumptuous and arrogant. Let us not be condescending and let us respect that people have to make due with the situation in which they are.

PART II: The Solutions

So now that we have discounted the apologists for the Administration and the Parking and Transportation Services, we need to turn our focus to finding solutions. Some of these solutions are likely to be unpopular, but they need to be considered, and their various merits and criticisms need to be discussed. The ones that we perceive as most likely are…

Solution 1: Lot-Specific Permits
The first possible solution is to require all students who live on campus to purchase the “Lot-Specific” permit at the reduced price.

What lots are these lot specific permits for? These would be for P704 and P705, Regents & East Lots, respectively. Parking could set this requirement if they so choose, but it wouldn’t because they would be unable to charge as much for such distant parking and would be unable to oversell parking the way they currently do.

But why can’t lot-specific parking ever happen? It is because any parking problems that arose in future years would be directly correlated as TPS and the administration’s fault for overselling permits. Transportation Services could re-allocate spots from “A” and “B” back to “S” spots, but this is also very unlikely considering how our administration thinks of us undergraduates only as dollar signs and not as individuals who have our own lives and concerns to deal with. It is also interesting to note that people with “A” and “B” permits are allowed to park in “S” spaces whenever they so please (although they rarely do). However, it is important to note that faculty, staff, and graduate students will always have priority over undergraduates.

Many people claim to be concerned with the safety of parking across the freeway. If you live on campus and you park in the east lots during the week when you are unlikely to drive, you should visit the parking lot during the day and move your car close to your dorm while it is still light outside. You would still be able to park on campus after 4:30, so if you wanted to go shopping tomorrow, you could park by your dorm and return your car to the east lots Sunday before dark. It’s also safer than being the only person (girls especially) alone on a shuttle late at night.

Solution 2: New Parking Lots
Another potential solution is to build a new parking lot with the express promise that spots are reserved for students.

According to the UCSD Long Range Development Plan last updated in 2004, “As of 2002-03, the campus had a total of 17,650 spaces, including permit and metered parking spaces to serve approximately 33,100 students, faculty, staff, and visitors.” They also recognize that “parking demand in the West Campus would increase to 15,600 spaces; and parking demand in the East Campus would increase to about 10,350 spaces, primarily due to the expansion of the UCSD Medical Center La Jolla and the Science Research Park. For the campus as a whole, the need for parking would increase by approximately 54%, from 17,650 spaces in 2002-03 to 27,200 spaces in 2020-21. The vast majority of future parking will need to be constructed in structures due to the limited amount of vacant land. Future parking will be funded primarily by the UCSD parking system; all new proposed parking facilities will be required to satisfy standard financial feasibility tests.” This plan is supposed to last through to the academic year 2020-21. As enrollment and application to UCSD is increasing greatly with a record number of applicants for the 2011-2012 academic year, the reduction in undergraduate parking is a massive problem. In fact, Housing and Dining Services has allowed colleges to offer incoming freshmen a promise of three years of on campus housing. Considering these factors it is not a matter of if we will build another parking lot, but when.

Now when we decide to invest in another parking lot, where could it be built? Opposite Hopkins? Sixth College Canyon? North of Geisel? North of RIMAC? This is hardly likely, as “environmental” restrictions require UCSD to set apart some of their land for natural habitat. Also, there is no way to guarantee that Parking Services would preserve a parking lot just for “S” spots, based off of previous examples. This is most evident with the “recently” constructed Gilman, Pangea, and Regents parking lots, built in 1999, which are not strictly to service the parking needs of the undergraduates.

Another problem with building a new parking lot is that parking lots are expensive (several million dollars expensive) and I’m pretty sure we haven’t paid off the debt (interest) from our last few parking lot expansions yet.

Solution 3: The Trolley
According to an email sent by the UCSD Administration at the end of January, between 2015 and 2016 there is scheduled to be a trolley system built connecting UCSD to the broader trolley system of San Diego. What will this do? It will cause more individuals to commute to UCSD, likely reducing traffic for individuals who are seeking to park on campus. The trolley project is likely why Transportation Services has not done anything to help undergraduates. They are praying for the day the trolley arrives and they can tell people to ride the trolley rather than park on campus. This will also expand UCSD’s reach far south of the campus, leading to increased numbers of commuters to the trolley station, but not much else. Transportation Services would just be moving the problem of parking rather than solving it.

Solution 4: Don’t Buy The Lies, Force TPS to be Accountable to Undergraduates
Parking at UCSD is not funded by the state. According to the UCSD Long Term Development Plan last updated in 2004, “Permit holders fund the design, construction, operation, and maintenance of all parking facilities.” That means that when Transportation Services claims to raise permit costs & parking tickets because of “tuition hikes” they are lying. They expect students to take the permit increases and parking reductions lying down as they can conveniently blame the administration and regents for things they don’t care about. They raise the prices arbitrarily, and for anyone who followed the news, there was a noticeable spike in permit costs after their MTS bus “caught fire” over the Voigt bridge.

You can protest the Transportation Policy Committee, which although weighted against undergrads (we only have 2/9 voting positions), claims to meet in order to “Reflect a fair and neutral process that respects the needs of the constituencies served by the campus parking and transportation system.” Based on all of the evidence, we can agree that it obviously does not do this. However the TPC is merely an “advisory” committee to TPS. TPS is completely unaccountable to undergraduate students, which is why they attempted to petition the Associated Students at UCSD in 2010 to pass a referendum to fund shuttle use on campus.

The two individuals who do have power over Transportation and Parking Services are on TPC are the two “ex officio (nonvoting)” members. These are Brian DeMeulle, the Acting Director of Transportation Services, and Russ Thackston, the Assistant Vice Chancellor — Auxiliary and Plant Services. Gary Matthews, the Vice Chancellor – Resource Management and Planning, and Chancellor Marye Anne Fox also have a say over Transportation and Parking Services policy, so send them all a polite email expressing your frustration with the administration’s disregard for undergraduate students.

Solution 5: Good Ol’ Fashioned Conservatism!
Privatize, privatize, privatize … Now I know this word causes some people to go into epileptic shock, but hopefully you haven’t yet. I want you to step outside your preconceived notions and think about what happens in this scenario. Imagine a private enterprise running each parking lot. Although you might think that you will have to pay higher prices to park in Muir, Gilman, Sixth, Hopkins and Pangea, these companies would end up charging less in order to compete with one another in order to maximize their profit. East Lot would probably still be the cheapest, but because it would be so much cheaper, more people would have the incentive to park there, especially if you have to be on campus all day.

Now let’s try a logical exercise to understand why parking permits are so high to begin with. As Parking & Transportation Services is required to pay for shuttles and buses, what would happen if we broke up their monopoly? How would the shuttles be funded? The defenders of the shuttles claim that they provide such a nice public good, are free, and they help the environment. These people claim that we shouldn’t do anything to reduce the use of these forms of public transportation.

If you actually look at the facts, it is clear that the shuttles aren’t free. The shuttles are actually completely paid for by everyone who parks on campus and pays for a parking permit. What happens if no one was to pay for a permit? Would the shuttles have to charge people to ride? I think they would, and people should have to pay for shuttle passes, as the logic behind the current system of having shuttles paid for by parking permits is faulty. The system is flawed because the more people you convince to ride the shuttles and buses, the less money TPS has to fund them unless TPS raises parking citations and tickets in order to compensate, which is what they are also doing. In fact, TPS recognizes this, and according to their projections from December 6, 2010, this academic year they were predicted to lose $669,956 because of a decline in parking spaces and an increase in shuttle use and maintenance.

Interestingly however, the very same people who advocate taking advantage of this flaw in the system are also the people calling for you to ride the shuttles that they refuse to pay for. The other three problems for the argument for parking off campus and busing onto it (aside from the hypocrisy) are 1) that by driving to the La Jolla Village Square or UTC and parking, you harm the small businesses by taking up their spots; 2) it is illegal to park on private property and not patronize the stores that the lot serves; 3) by spending extra time and effort busing onto campus when you could have driven an extra minute, you harm the environment more by expelling more greenhouse gases. Pardon me for assuming that you were trying to be environmentally friendly. But in the long term, this is exactly what Transportation Services wants, to make the campus transportation “completely green” for undergraduates. In the meantime, they just need us to act like cattle and go along with their scheme. I don’t have a problem with being green by choice, but I do have a problem when you mandate it upon others. Whatever happened to power to the people?

PART III: Remaining Solutions

Are there any other options? There are some, but they aren’t very plausible…

1. Civil Disobedience – You can carry black and yellow paint in your car & paint up a row of spots in a lot. Take back the University. However this is definitely illegal, so unless you are willing to suffer the consequences, this is a bit of a drastic solution.

2. Endorse the Coercive State Solution – Also known as the “green option”, you can mandate that students take public transport and that those students who live on campus must walk or bike. Strangely enough though, biking restrictions are very common on several “green universities”, just Googlebike citations Berkeley” or “bike ban Canada universities” because they endanger pedestrians on University campuses. We even have our own bike restrictions just waiting to be prosecuted. Did you know you cannot ride your bike on Library Walk during normal school hours? If you do, UCSD police can issue you a citation or a fine, and although relatively uncommon now, it is likely to increase in frequency if we continue down this route. For most UCSD students this is unfeasible, as the city UCSD was built in is La Jolla, a notoriously difficult city for individuals to use public transportation or to bike to campus (UCSD sits on top of several hills).

3. Lobby AS and the Administration – Let them know you’re angry and frustrated, and that it’s ridiculous that Transportation & Parking Services keeps walking all over you. Try contacting your friends, families, and the media to tell them how you feel. Tell everyone who goes to UCSD to sign the parking petition to let AS know that you are not content with business as usual! Also write articles, investigate, and publish your findings. “Sunlight is the best disinfectant” for injustice and the more people that know about the PTS scam the more likely that PTS will have to change their practices. Therefore if you have any tips or want to help us fight this situation, feel free to email us at editors[at]californiareview.net.

Part IV: Conclusion

Look the whole reason that students are angry isn’t because they want empty parking lots. Students just want the ability to find a place to park without hours of waiting or having to park in East Lot miles from their classes. We want the spots that were allocated to us back in 2000 before enrollment increased by over 7,000 while parking spots dropped by 2,000. We want UCSD to follow it’s own Long Range Development Plan, recognize this parking crisis, and take adequate steps to nullify the problem. We are not unreasonable for being angry about this, and this parking crisis needs to be rectified. I can only hope that real change comes out of this anger rather than administrative lip service. Otherwise we have gained nothing, and the UCSD Administration will continue to screw us over.

***Editors Note: This article will be printed in the February 21st edition of the California Review.

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6 comments

  1. I graduated from UCSD two years ago, but I still remember the parking nightmare. I finally gave up and used East Parking every day, walking 25+ minutes to class. I also used the shuttle when I could, but if we’re no longer allowed to park at UTC, I don’t see how this is an option.

    I’m glad I don’t have to deal with this anymore, but I completely agree that something must be done. You can’t institute a problem, and then just expect people to deal with it.

  2. Is there are parking problem for S spots at UCSD?
    According to a study of parking occupancy in Fall 2010, even at peak times, there are well over 1,000 S spots available at UCSD. The S spots are never more than 3/4 of the way full! This is in contrast with A and B spots that are more than 90% full. But don’t take my word for it – the numbers are here: http://parking.ucsd.edu/survey/suoc104fa.xls

  3. Hey Alex, you attempt to make a point about their being “well over 1,000 S spots available at UCSD. The S spots are never more than 3/4 of the way full! This is in contrast with A and B spots that are more than 90% full.” However if you actually bothered to read the data, in WEST CAMPUS (ie. the main campus of UCSD) there is an average of only 7!!! empty spots available. When you look deeper into this, many of the parking lots have an average of 0 or 1 spots available during peak times. However, in the same region of campus there is an average of 208 empty B and 159 empty A spots. Now that my friend is an interesting statistic. Where are all the S spots? In East Lot… Why are the undergraduates shafted to the other side of the freeway while faculty and graduate students get premium treatment?

    Instead of being a shill for the TPS and the administration, in the future please read your own data before attempting to mislead students about the truth …

    – Alec Weisman

  4. You’re right, but that doesn’t mean I’m wrong.
    I read “Petition for more undergrad parking” but apparently the real issue is “Petition for more undergrad parking west of I-5”. I walk to campus from east of I-5 daily; it takes only 20-25 minutes.

    If you take parking away from faculty or staff, UCSD will have a hard time recruiting anyone to work here. Despite reductions in parking, undergrads are applying here in record rates anyways.

    I’ve got nothing to do with TPS or the administration. I don’t even own a parking permit.

  5. This is one of the worst articles I’ve seen in a long time.

  6. I don’t know if anyone is still checking these posts but I thought I would share an interesting email comment from Brian D’Autremont (head of parking) after I sent him multiple emails about our parking crisis.

    He assured me there was no crisis at all and, “Coupled with the 2400 permits that converted to public transportation, we are doing quite well, with over 1100 open spaces a day. Given the arrival of the Light rail in a few years, we seem in a good position.”

    What world does he live in?

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