The Waiting Game

The petition statistics help justify the students’ anger: While the undergrad population has swelled by 43 percent in the last decade, to over 23,000 students, the office of Transportation and Parking Services has eliminated about 2,000 student spots due to continued construction on campus.

According to Vice Chancellor of Resources Management Gary Matthews, ‘S’ permit sales have slid in the past few years due to the rising use of alternative transit — this is all well and good, but by the looks of the petition, they haven’t slid enough to assuage the frustrations of ‘S’ permit holders.

Platt and some 3,000 others have good cause to be upset. It’s already not uncommon to wait upwards of half an hour to park in Muir College surface lots, and with the elimination of dozens more S-permit spots, the wait is bound only to increase.

And while the loss of those undergrad parking spots has been paired with cuts to grad student and faculty parking, the distribution is glaringly uneven: 23,000 undergrads (many of whom, granted, don’t have cars parked on campus) share a total of 4,910 ‘S’ spots, while 6,059 faculty members and grad students are well-provided for with a combined 6,003 spots.

But however frustrating it is when colleges are left with only one paved lot available, most students fail to realize the root issue at hand. The UCSD Master Plan stipulates that no surface parking lot (i.e. none of the ones replaced by expanded on-campus housing or department buildings) is to be permanent, which means that whenever it comes time to erect a new building on campus, existing parking spots are the first to go.

And though there are dozens of unoccupied graduate student parking spaces on any given day of the week in the East Regents lots near Triton ballpark, the fact remains that when it comes to parking, the university does have to give priority to the convenience of a relative few in order to incentivize working here.

The suggestion that some of those existing ‘A’ and ‘B’ spots be converted to ‘S’ spots may be ideologically sound — undergrads represent, after all, the overwhelming majority of campus — but petitioners shouldn’t hold their breath.

If the petition indicates anything (other than the irritation of every student who’s ever fought fellow swoopers for a spot), it’s the need for TPS to reevaluate the permit system. At UC Davis, freshmen are barred from bringing cars to campus. At Berkeley, students can purchase a specific pass for carpooling. (Our office allows carpoolers to share the cost of a permit, though the system mostly operates as informal agreements between commuters.)

And at UCLA, students may apply for permits, but none are guaranteed a spot; the campus transportation office uses a need-based point system to evaluate each application, taking into account relevant factors such as class standing, on-campus employment and the distance of one’s commute.

Each of these options is worth assessing and it’s time to change how we issue our permits. An estimated 53,000 students, employees and faculty members commute to UCSD daily. The fewer who spend half an hour daily searching for a place to park — whether by means of improved carpool programs, shuttle lines or even, perhaps, the proposed San Diego-wide trolley system — the better.