Parking is a crisis on campus, or at least a pain, depending on how you characterize the situation. However, every crisis is accompanied by the opportunity for change, and I am heralding the cry to change the outmoded freshman parking restrictions and transportation alternatives at the College of William and Mary.
Two weeks ago, a consulting firm came to campus to conduct a formal evaluation and to discuss parking, busing, bicycle lanes and general transportation with the College administration. I attended one of these meetings, and the following proposal below is based on discussion with the consultants, graduate students and a few undergraduates. While I did not do any talking, the discussion inspired me to think of new ideas for freshmen and their parking situation. My proposal takes a pragmatic approach comprised of three ideas: economy, convenience and opportunity.
Given that the permissive grounds for a red decal, such as medical necessity and physical disability, often carry additional heavy costs, $354 is too high a price to ask of freshmen with permission to have cars on campus. The fee, although pricey, is manageable for upperclassmen, who likely have more job experience. With tuition as high as it is, a lower price for car decals could help alleviate the financial burden on freshmen.
Zipcars provide a middle ground between the high prices and inconvenient restrictions of keeping a car on campus and the general convenience of having a car. Zipcars provide students with a reasonably quick mode of transportation that neither bicycles nor buses can match. However, there are too few Zipcars. Right now, there are three cars available for almost six thousand undergraduates. The administration should continue to foster its relationship with Zipcar by increasing the availability of cars on campus.
My final suggestion would provide students with more transportation alternatives as well as an opportunity to become more involved with the campus community. Alpha Phi Omega, a community service fraternity, has a campus escort service, through which APO members offer transportation to any student on campus by driving them in golf carts. Perhaps the Student Assembly could replicate APO’s idea. There are a lot of eager students, especially freshmen, who would love to get involved in student life. Voter registration this past fall exemplifies the enthusiasm of students who actively participate in campus life. If the SA created a transportation service like APO’s, students who wanted to help operate this service would be able to get more involved with the SA as well as the campus community as a whole.
Increasing parking options for freshman is highly improbable. As of now, even upperclassmen and graduate students have a hard time finding parking. As the administration reevaluates the parking situation, I strongly encourage the administration and the SA to find alternatives when spaces are scarce; making the decal price more affordable for those already financially burdened, introducing more Zipcars for increased accessibility, and passing an SA bill increasing participation from the student body are all possible methods to reach this goal.
Email Benming Zhang at firstname.lastname@example.org.