Do Campus Parking Woes Damage Scholarship? Readers Respond
Posted August 18, 1999
To the editor:
In the June 9 Berkeleyan ("Do Campus Parking Woes Damage Scholarship?") Professor Richard Abrams once again expresses his frustration about the difficulty of parking.
Certainly it can be difficult to find parking during peak hours, especially for students and visitors, but I believe it is unlikely that our academic mission will be compromised by faculty who stay away from campus "due to insufficient or costly parking.''
Unfortunately Abrams' view that parking problems can be cured solely by building a few hundred more parking places and lowering the fees simply does not survive careful scrutiny.
A more objective source for information on parking is the Wilbur Smith Associates' report of February, 1999, "Parking Policy & Planning Options Study,'' commissioned by the UC Berkeley Planning Office. Since it provides facts in opposition to many of Abrams' assertions, it may be a useful counterpoint for your readers.
Here are a few items from this report:
UC monthly parking rates are 50 to 60 percent of the rates charged by nearby non-UC facilities. In short, UC subsidizes people who park on campus. As a consequence of pre-tax deductions for many faculty, parking fees dropped some 30 to 40 percent this year.
Parking structures fill up during the day, but even at peak times some less-convenient spots are available. For example, the Ellsworth Parking Structure appears to have peak-hour vacancies.
While parking permits are clearly "hunting licenses" rather than guarantees of convenient parking, the ratio of central campus stickers to central campus spots is 1:1. Faculty/staff permits are oversold by a ratio of 1.2:1 and student permits by 2.6:1. Faculty, who are all eligible for central campus permits, not only constitute a subsidized class but a privileged parking class.
What will happen when we build more parking? Consider that UCLA charges even more for a permit, has far more parking spaces, and yet occupancy rates in major facilities approach 100 percent. When the several hundred UC Berkeley parking spots planned for the next few years are completed, they will likely be filled at peak times.
Probably each of us would like a convenient, safe parking spot whenever we choose to drive to campus. Since this is not feasible, it seems essential to integrate parking into a transportation plan and a financial framework that makes sense for the whole campus community.
Therefore, as the chair of the Senate Committee on Academic Planning and Resource Allocation, to which Abrams' subcommittee on Transportation and Parking reports, I am dismayed to see the parking situation so oversimplified and misrepresented.
The hope of our committee is that the new Strategic Facilities Master Plan now being constructed by HLW Strategies Consultants, with participation by all sectors of the University community, will address parking in a more integrated context.
Professor Richard Fateman
I just read the article in the Berkeleyan about parking and scholarship and want to add another faculty voice in support of Professor Abram's analysis.
Public transportation to the campus for those of us who do not live nearby is only viable under a very limited set of conditions. For example, in San Francisco, where I live, traveling to campus by BART is only viable if you happen to live near a BART station and thus don't have to take a MUNI bus to get to BART.
It is quite naive to think that faculty (and staff) will not be driving their cars to campus in the foreseeable future. If the campus makes it difficult and punishing to find parking, then people will sharply limit their time here. The current "telecommuting" [sic] culture allows this for faculty -- many of my colleagues work at home many days of the week. But when you think about it, a university campus without its faculty present is pretty impoverished.
At times there seems to be an "eco-Puritan" ethic at work, with faculty who drive being punished for their sins. This is pretty silly and bespeaks a lack of knowledge about the limitations of public transportation in the Bay Area and the complexities in people's lives. Also, not all faculty are capable of walking long distances across campus. Thus lack of available parking during the day can make attending meetings and scheduling classes in certain buildings impossible.
Maybe this reflects my behavioral training, but I think that faculty should be rewarded for being on campus, not punished. One way to do this is to make parking available, convenient and reasonably priced.