Universities are notoriously bad for parking. There are always too many cars and too few places to park them. With strict rules enforcing which permits can park where, the Davies Center and Hibbard lots are often full before midmorning.
And with construction on the new UW-Eau Claire student center slated for fall, 2010, the university is expecting to lose almost 400 parking spots in the process, according to an April 22 article in The Spectator.
While this temporary loss of parking is to be expected, the university must handle the situation with special care. With many students commuting to campus, the university should go to great lengths to keep students informed of which parking spots are available to use and which are off-limits.
At least a two-week, ticket-free grace period during construction would be a good way to start.
Another way to alleviate parking congestion would be to open up many of the metered lots on upper campus and allow permit parking in those areas. There are many unused metered spots near Crest Wellness Center and the surrounding dorms that could be better utilized.
Nearly all student parkers will be allocated to the Water Street lot, which usually has space available. But given that the lot is at a distance of a couple blocks from campus anyway, many students will opt out of the permit fee and park elsewhere around the university.
Given the increase in neighborhood parking, the university should also work closely with the Third Ward and surrounding communities to make sure a compromise is reached between both parties during the three- to five-year construction period.
But if there’s any silver lining in the imminent parking fiasco, it’s that the construction of the new student center could result in a more sustainable campus community. Hopefully, some commuters on the fence about biking or walking to campus will be converted when the alternative is a less-than-convenient parking spot on campus.