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The Price of Parking

If you don’t have parking controversies at your school, it is probably because you teach in an urban area with easy access to public transit. One thinks of El Centro College, in downtown Dallas, with DART stations a few steps from classrooms, and trains running day and night. The City University of New York has improved its full-time student attendance and graduation rates by—along with other strategies—offering free Metro Cards.

As for the rest of us, please have a look at this piece by David Lieb and John Dorsett, in The Chronicle of Higher Education. The writers are “campus-parking consultants.” Seriously. Figuring out the logistics of campus parking is now a profession—no criticism intended. Problems are complicated and apparently need expertise.

As you can see from the article, one big challenge is pricing. Most schools want a “Goldilocks” rate that is just right for them. Community colleges are especially problematic, with abundant commuters who want to dash in for a quick class, and then get back to the kids or to work. Residential universities often do everything they can to discourage automobiles altogether. Two-year commuter colleges can’t do that, for the most part.

An issue not discussed fully in the piece is special parking places for certain categories of persons. Should administrators get preferential parking, since they come and go during the day, attending meetings off campus? What about elected trustees? Visitors need close-in parking. Should full-time faculty get better spots than adjuncts? Setting higher prices for closer parking to “get what you pay for” doesn’t seem fair to lowly-paid staffers and adjuncts.

Then there are students—the reasons why we come to work in the first place.

One of the more infuriating experiences for all of us is, while searching for a parking spot, driving past “reserved” places that seem perpetually vacant. The writers of the CHE piece have some ideas and formulas you might find useful.

Many years ago, church pews were often reserved for certain families, especially generous financial contributors. The practice eventually rubbed people the wrong way in an increasingly egalitarian society. So if you plan to attend worship services Easter Sunday, arrive early to mark your territory. In a corruption of Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is My Land,” This Pew is MY pew, THAT pew is YOUR pew.” Amen.