Parking has for a long time been an issue plaguing the University of Connecticut. Now, with the removal of over 900 spots to new construction, once again UConn must deal with students complaints, campus aesthetic concerns, and the logistics of spots. The solution this time is no different than usual: UConn plans to build upwards on existing lots, adding about 1,000 new spaces for cars. Once again the university has opted to punt the issue of parking to another day, just barely subsisting by eating up some (vertical) space.
There are a few levels of thinking when it comes to solving parking. On the base level, there is building new parking lots. For an increasingly popular Storrs area, though, this is not an option. The high school cannot even find the space to provide for their small number of students. It would be ridiculous to believe that UConn could even come close to meeting their need with ground level lots.
Since the basic option is not available, the next option is to build up. Parking garages can multiply the number of spaces available per area on the ground; the sky is literally the limit. For an institution concerned with public image, though, this too is not satisfactory. Towering parking garages like North campus’s are ugly and industrial. While many current students would probably consider this a worthwhile sacrifice, an ugly campus does not present well to the community and prospective students. Parking garages can’t really be built endlessly on each lot on campus.
In fact, as long as the crucial lots exist on campus, the problem of parking will persist. As the recent project has reminded UConn, the institution constantly wants to be expanding. As free land central to campus grows more sparse, the first target really should be the parking lots, which add nothing to academics or quality of life directly. No one will deny that the stretches of asphalt that dot campus are just a necessary evil, so the key to solving UConn parking is to remove the marker “necessary”.
The Depot Campus is a space in Mansfield granted to UConn by the state of Connecticut without any real use. Many of the buildings there are abandoned, and the land is currently used for some minor miscellaneous purposes. However, the property is only seven minutes by car from the main campus. A possible solution, then, would be to provide adequate parking at the depot campus and bus people over regularly.
Perhaps this would be infeasible for one reason or another. Maybe the logistics of keeping a steady flow to and from the lot would be a nightmare. Maybe it would not be cost effective to pay the bus drivers. The point is not to dissect the specific solution put forward. What is important is that alternative ways to meet UConn’s transportation needs must be found. The current system is not sustainable.
It is a starry-eyed dream to think that the university’s parking problems will ever end under the current methods being used to combat it. Rather than work hard to solve the issue of car storage, it is apparent that planners prefer spending money and time pushing the issue back for another few years. It is ridiculous that nearby institution Eastern Connecticut State University gets to enjoy free parking while UConn pays exorbitant fees for subpar, far away, and overly packed spaces. I understand that these are different contexts, but surely there must be some better way than what is in place now. UConn must start thinking out of the box to fix their near-constant parking problem.
Peter Fenteany is a weekly columnist for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.