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25 June, 2004

Pigeons, meet the cat

In the University's weekly bulletin sent by e-mail to all staff today, there's a notification that a revised car parking scheme will be introduced in the new academic year (i.e. in October).  This acknowledges that there has been severe overcrowding of limited car parking spaces on campus this year, with some drivers parking on grass verges and unsafe corners, and tennis courts having to be commandeered as overspill parking during open days.  It also takes into account the fact that ongoing building work will not only further impinge on existing space but also increase the campus population without significantly increasing parking provision.

The new measures are:

  • to reduce the number of parking permits issued to staff and students, and absolutely limit that number. One problem this year was that far more permits were issued than available spaces, erroneously relying on some people not using them daily.
  • to significantly increase the cost of each parking permit. The current price actually discourages the use of public transport; the revised price will make the latter a far more attractive option.
    A specific example: it would cost a student 13.50 to park a car in a space on the perimeter road for the full year Oct. 2003 to Sept. 2004. A member of staff would pay 16.00, which neatly coincides with the return bus fare to town for a fortnight - 1.60 per day. If the student permit was raised to 240, that would match the cost of bus travel for the 30-week academic year.

Prices and zoning limitations (spaces on the perimeter road versus spaces on inner roads, closer to buildings) are yet to be determined, but though there's no specific mention of it, I'm hoping there'll also be a revision of policy regarding who qualifies for permits. Until 2003, first year students were ineligible for on-campus parking, and I'd support a return to that. They all live on-campus, within walking distance of every part of the University, so having their own vehicles nearby is an unsupportable luxury. These are the same students who sat in front of bulldozers when the University tried to level an unused grass area for an overspill car park - you can't have it both ways, kiddies.

I'm really pleased that the University administrators are beginning to acknowledge their legal obligations to reduce car usage and move towards a greater balance between private and public transport by improving alternative transport. Relative to the current arrangement, the revisions may appear draconian, but really this is just a readjustment to real-world conditions; the magnitude of change might seem severe, but the outcome should be perfectly reasonable.

I'm sure it's going to draw considerable criticism, though, as the title suggests. Drivers like their little comforts, and are bound to complain. That's why I was particularly pleased to see the announcement comes from one of the Pro-Vice-Chancellors and the University's Director of Resources, hence conveying the clear subtext that this is indeed a notification of what will happen, not a consultation exercise.

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