News, updates, commentary and more from BikeAthens. BikeAthens is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization based in Athens, GA. BikeAthens promotes transportation and land-use policies that improve alternative modes of transportation, including pedestrian, cycling, and public transit options. The mission of our organization is to make alternative transportation a practical, convenient, and safe option for all citizens of Athens-Clarke County.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Parking it at UGA

The Red & Black compares UGA's parking facilities to those of its peer institutions.

“Parking is one of the biggest problems on most any large university campus,” [ University of Florida vice president of Business Affairs Ed] Poppell said. “On our campus we say, ‘We have enough spaces, but just not in the right places.’”

The saying is a result of one of UF’s initiatives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and congestion on campus by enforcing certain regulations, such as the university’s “auto-free interior campus,” where only buses and service vehicles are allowed on the interior of campus from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

“We have significant policies on our campus limiting what students can do and where they can park,” Poppell said. “We have also continuously increased the price of our decals, encouraging people to find alternative means of transportation.”

At the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the parking is highly selective. With 16,000 total parking spaces on campus, the school allows only 3,900 of its 28,136 students to park on campus. Unlike the University, UNC does not offer parking to incoming freshmen.

“There are a lot of folks who prefer to utilize the transit system,” said Randy Young, spokesman for the UNC Department of Safety. “We’ve gone to inordinate measures to make sure that the congestion and dependence on single-occupancy vehicles are attended to here on campus. We have 6,000 people on the Commuter Alternative Program.”

The program offers students an incentive to walk, ride bikes or use transit on campus by rewarding them with prizes and merchant discounts.

The University has a similar program called the Alternative Transportation Program, with a student participation of 1,200.

The program allows students who walk or take the bus* to receive 22 days of free parking per year in specified parking locations.

*ATP is also available for cyclists. With its campus pedestrian malls, campus transit, and bike racks, UGA certainly leads the county in supporting alternative transportation infrastructure.

Still, more can be done to encourage alternative behavior among a student body overwhelmingly conditioned to drive enormous SUVs for 2 mile errand trips. Increasing ATP participation should be a top priority. Given the comparatively low levels of participation, UGA has a ways to go before it can say it has "gone to inordinate measures to make sure that the congestion and dependence on single-occupancy vehicles" are minimized.

Indeed, since its inception, the Alternative Transportation Program has grown more restrictive, due to concerns that the program was being abused. Instead of marginalizing a good idea, UGA ought to develop creative enforcement solutions and then widely publicize the program's availability and benefits. Fewer cars means less need for bond-financed parking decks, which means less congestion, both on our roads and in our air.

Unfortunately, other considerations tend to distort the University's thinking on these things.

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