As the College of William and Mary grows, one of the biggest problems facing students with personal vehicles is the perceived lack of available parking on campus. While this frustration is understandable, I believe that it is better to have fewer cars on campus and that the College should take further steps to restrict the number of parking decals issued to students.
The College was designed at a time when automobiles were nonexistent and was never meant to accommodate the amount of vehicular traffic seen in recent years. Although parts of new campus have been built with the automobile in mind, the College has been forced to allocate a significant amount of space for roads and sprawling parking lots, the former posing a hazard for students on foot and the latter being aesthetically unappealing.
Another problem with campus parking is the environmental damage it incurs. In addition to the diminished air quality from car exhaust, there are also the problems caused by paved surfaces such as parking lots. The series of retention ponds, streams and drainage pipes in the campus natural preserve make up a network created to capture the runoff from the roads and parking lots and redirect the flow to prevent flooding. This disruption of the natural watershed is a problem in many urbanized settings, and additional parking lots will only serve to further diminish the natural surroundings of the College.
Obviously, there are certain students who need to have a car on campus, such as commuters and those with off-campus jobs. But for many students there is no inherent need to have a car on campus. Solving the parking “problem” on campus should be done not through the construction of additional parking spaces, but rather through the limitation of student parking. One option would be to restrict the supply of decals for on-campus students while maintaining a high supply for students with off-campus addresses or for those who can demonstrate a personal necessity for a car.
So how are on-campus students to get around? Bike lanes and bike racks have been constructed, access to the Williamsburg public transit system is free of charge for students, and the campus Zipcar program offers an affordable option for those wishing to drive off campus for a while. I’ve used the city buses to get around on multiple occasions, and while they may not be as quick and efficient as a personal vehicle, they are still a reliable way to run errands around the area. So why aren’t more students taking advantage of these opportunities?
The problem seems to be linked to our culture’s affinity for car travel. Most of us have grown up driving everywhere, and now that we’ve left home we somehow feel our newfound freedom requires a car to get around. But here at the College we pride ourselves on the deep bonds of community, and driving off campus every weekend doesn’t strengthen those bonds. Stay on campus and get involved — there are plenty of great things to do here even when classes have ended for the week.