Ask any student at the University of Idaho what they think needs to be fixed most on campus and you would probably hear a reoccurring answer — parking.
With an increase in the number of people on campus comes the dire need for an increase in available parking spaces.
Over the years, UI’s enrollment has increased. In 2016, during the beginning stages of the strategic plan, enrollment reached a total of 11,372. According to the strategic plan, which evaluates university goals for the next 10 years, the end enrollment goal for 2025 is 17,000 students.
As of this year, enrollment reached 12,000 students, making parking a logistical nightmare. It is hard to even imagine what parking might be like if UI reaches its goal of 17,000 students.
Parking is currently divided into colored lots. Each lot comes with its own hefty price tag. Pricing for parking passes is not a popular topic — a student can pay up to $172 for a pass in a red lot and still have trouble finding an ideal parking spot.
The biggest improvement Parking and Transportation Services made began in 2017 with the implementation of economy parking passes. This means commuters can pay to park in a distant lot west of the Kibbie Dome. This might seem like a good deal, however, it is merely a Band-Aid to fix the bigger problem that is parking at UI.
The goal for all of the lots overall is to reach an average of 85 percent utilization, leaving 15 percent of parking spaces empty, according to the parking and transportation website. Available space will vary depending on the day of the week or time of year, but there doesn’t seem to be a change in need for extra spaces. As of Fiscal Year 2018, fall parking lot utilization in silver lots across campus exceeded the utilization goal by 13 percent, purple by 4 percent.
New buildings never seem to be a question, but simply placing a few square feet aside for some extra parking spaces aren’t taken into account. Where will attendees and students park when the university aims to fill the 70,000-square foot Idaho Central Credit Reunion Arena? UI administrators should have first looked into new spaces for parking lots to better prepare for the future ahead. These things add up, and not in extra parking lot.
Of course, not everyone needs parking space. For the 64 percent of students and all the faculty members that live off campus, extremely limited parking quickly became a burden this year. When a student pays an outrageous amount for a parking pass, they should at least be able to find a decent parking spot or any spot at all.
In January, Parking and Transportation Services released a survey via email asking students “What do you really think about parking?” The email stated the “University of Idaho is now facing more challenging issues related to increased demand for campus parking. These challenges translate into necessary decisions that will serve as a template for years to come.” Luckily, the problem has been acknowledged. Now it is time to do something about the issue.
For now, students will have to patiently wait to see what actions Parking and Transportation Services and UI administration take to help alleviate the problem. We can only hope they better accommodate for the future ahead as enrollment numbers increase and available parking spot numbers dwindle.