Lines of vehicles can be seen crammed into almost every University of Idaho parking lot, with few opportunities for students to find space before class.
Last semester, UI Parking and Transportation Services placed a cap on the number of purple parking permits sold due to over crowded lots.
Because of the parking cap, Transportation Services introduced the cheaper but less convenient “purple economy” passes for students who drive cars less often.
The parking situation is more stable than last semester said Robert Mitchell, a UI parking information specialist.
“There has been some relief,” Mitchell said. “Because people turn in permits, people go to other schools and things like that. So, we’ve been able to issue a few more purple passes — but it’s going to be capped again next year too.”
Mitchell said the purple economy parking space may expand, depending on the volume of cars next year, but said that UI can only hold so much.
“Even though (the Kibbie Dome parking lot) is an enormous space, we have to have a place for all the fans for sporting events too,” Mitchell said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if it expanded a bit, because that seems to be the direction we’re going, but it can’t go forever.”
Mitchell said he believes the economy lot is the best compromise available and hopes more people will utilize the resource in the future.
“I think (the economy lot) has worked in the ways we had hoped,” Mitchell said. “I think now that the concept has picked up, I think the intent of it — which is for people who don’t use their cars on a daily basis — I think next year we’re going to see more of that out there. Hopefully, people are talking amongst themselves in the houses and residence halls about using vehicles less and less.”
Mitchel said it is UI’s goal to make the core of campus as vehicle-free as possible. Part of making that transition is incentivizing alternate forms of transportation.
“We’re trying to make the core more pedestrian-centric,” Mitchell said. “We are also making progress on a bike-share program where students can be offered discounts at local businesses for using alternative transportation.”
Mitchell addressed the common question of building a new parking structure and the difficulties associated with such an undertaking.
“Most of our campus footprint consists of buildings, and where there aren’t buildings there are walk ways. The campus core is extraordinarily concentrated. It truly is an urban environment. So, putting more parking in there is unfeasible. It’s like being in Seattle, and trying to squeeze in parking lots when the real estate is worth millions upon millions of dollars.”
Mitchell also said there is a misunderstanding amongst many people in terms of where funding comes from.
“It’s totally normal, to hear about these millions of dollars going to a sporting facility and being curious where (the money) comes from,” Mitchell said. “That money is donated, though, by the community, the vast majority of it at least. So, that isn’t money that exists of other purposes that’s being reallocated
to the stadium. Obviously, parking isn’t as exciting as a new sports arena. We don’t have people banging down our door to give us money for a new parking lot.”
Jeremiah Agbeko, a UI sophomore, said although parking is a complex situation, UI needs to find some kind of solution.
“Parking availability is really tricky. A lot of people just say things like ‘just put in another parking lot’ like it’s as easy installing a new dryer,” Agbeko said. “It’s not that simple, but being stranded without a place to park isn’t acceptable.”
Agbeko advocated for a more thought-out, long-term solution to parking congestion on campus.
“The (purple economy) parking lot got mixed reactions from people, but it was probably necessary for how many people are on campus,” Agbeko said. “But you can’t just slap a Band-Aid on the issue because every year will bring more people and more cars.”
Agbeko, who owns a red pass, said he feels lot of people’s frustrations are directed toward the parking department because nothing seems to be changing.
“You know, you pay almost $200 for a privilege, but sometimes it doesn’t really feel like a privilege,” Agbeko said. “Getting a ticket and being late because there isn’t a place to park doesn’t feel like a privilege. You can’t keep increasing the population and not make the adjustments that come with it.”
Andrew Ward can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org on Twitter @WardOfTheWorlds