CSU’s Parking Services recently proposed a 175 percent rate hike for parking fees, largely to fund construction of at least one parking garage on campus. Students and faculty are justifiably perturbed – until now, parking near CSU, as much as we all complain about it, has been a steal: permits are inexpensive compared to other schools, and open lots aren’t too distant from campus buildings.
But instead of regressing to the mean and doing what other schools do, CSU should aim higher, and strive to keep parking costs low and parking accessible. Parking garages aren’t necessarily the answer; in fact, garages are notoriously expensive – typically costing over $10,000 per parking space to build – and the added use of automobiles contributes to congestion and pollution problems.
Under state law, CSU’s Parking Services Division is entirely self-sustaining: Parking construction, enforcement, and maintenance must be paid for entirely out of the fees collected. Faced with the problem of, by themselves, solving CSU’s parking woes, Parking Services’ plan is understandable.
But with CSU poised to grow by another 20 percent in the coming decade, Parking Services can’t just go it alone any more. The university as a whole needs to start looking at more holistic solutions to combat a growing dependence on the automobile and to alleviate our parking woes.
Here are five quick ideas to cut down on the need for on-campus parking:
Idea 1: Build more on-campus housing. More students living on campus means more students walking instead of driving to class, and also means a reduced impact – both in terms of housing and parking – on nearby neighborhoods.
Idea 2: Improve bus service. Last week, the Collegian’s point/counterpoint section outlined not only the benefits of riding Transfort, but a number of potential improvements make the system more student-friendly. ASCSU, which provides a large chunk of Transfort’s budget, needs to press hard for meaningful changes, especially evening service.
Idea 3: Chip in for the Mason Street Corridor Project. Fort Collins is right now figuring out how to finance a rapid-transit line running from Old Town, through campus, and south to Harmony Road. The more students, faculty, and staff who ride this line into campus, the fewer parking spaces we’ll need. CSU needs to chip in and not only help build the campus stations, but make sure they’re well-connected to campus paths.
Idea 4: Make biking to and around campus easier. CSU and Fort Collins are already bike-friendly, but cyclists still take their lives into their own hands following poorly-designed bike paths which meander through busy campus streets, pedestrian walks, and parking lots – not to mention the nightmare of crossing College Avenue. Additional bike racks in crowded locations and more RamWheels bikes couldn’t hurt, either.
Idea 5: Bring a car-sharing program to Fort Collins. Car-sharing programs work a lot like RamWheels: for a low hourly cost, you can check out a conveniently-parked car for short trips from campus, and return it when you’re done. Car-sharing companies like Flexcar and Zipcar can add one more travel option and reduce the need to bring cars to campus. CSU Parking services, Transfort, and downtown businesses can offer them prime locations.
None of these ideas are things parking services can do by themselves – they’ll require the partnership of ASCSU, city government, CSU administrators, and local businesses. Some of them may cost a little money, but they’ll cost less in the long run than building parking decks to the sky, and they’ll help us keep parking, for the folks who really need it, accessible and affordable.