Editorial: Parking structure could solve UCR’s parking problems

Richard Lin/HIGHLANDER
Richard Lin/HIGHLANDER

Attempting to park anywhere at UCR without owning a permit is harder than most students’ midterms, especially if you don’t arrive at campus well before midday. Even with a permit, arriving after noon rules out nearly every reasonable spot.

With more than 14,000 commuter students, UCR’s parking situation is necessarily difficult and expensive. The nonprofit agency tasked with managing all of our parking, Transportation and Parking Services (TAPS) is an organization that runs on a limited budget, and is charged with keeping up the operations of all the parking UCR owns. TAPS is an operation that runs off of the revenue from parking tickets and the purchase of the color-coded permits that commuter students are all too familiar with.

Recently, in an attempt to balance out their budget after the $200,000 hemorrhage they suffered in 2013, TAPS was forced to increase the cost of the parking permits that they issued, with plans for them increasing further in the coming years. With TAPS being so limited in funds as it is, and the parking situation in need of such change, it begs the question as to what and where improvements need to be made so that the parking congestion around campus can clear up. Furthermore, the creation of that necessary space without stepping on TAPS’ toes could be harmful to their association with the school that depends on them. Can anything actually be done?

Many students who don’t have parking permits cope by keeping spots that they know of secret, creating a system of social exchange between commuter-buddies that continues the tradition of passing down the mysteries of parking. However, as the student population continually increases, even having doubled from 1997 to 2007 and another 50 percent anticipated after that, these locations won’t remain hidden, and many of the other parking spots will be flooded as well, pointing back to the need for a change.

The first thing that must be understood is that TAPS should not be counted on as the harbinger of parking development at UCR. With a past operating budget of around $1.5 million according to their 2013 fiscal year report, TAPS makes nowhere near the amount that would be required to affect any serious difference, especially when you consider the $18,000 it would cost per parking space. Instead, we should look to UCR itself to make the change that many of us who attend the school through a daily commute would depend on.

Using the sheer square footage available on the land where Lot 30 currently is, and multiplying that vertically by three or four times, many of the current issues with parking could be greatly alleviated. Lot 30 is not only the perfect size for such a building, but is the closest parking lot for the gold permits, making it the best of all possible choices. Moreover, should UCR continue any outward expansion, it will be ideally located near the heart of the school.

Additionally, to avoid the catastrophic disaster that would result in shutting Lot 30 down for any length of time during the school year, this plan could be withheld until the summer, where the number of commuters to the school is much more limited, though the structure shouldn’t be expected to be open for at least another quarter afterward. Nonetheless, the head start would be invaluable to ensuring the project is done before the need is too dire.

Some concerns on the construction of this structure may point to the one at University Village; however, aesthetic issues as to how this building would look could be resolved with the use of the bricks that UCR is known for, adorning the steel and concrete structure’s exterior to keep with the rest of the school’s motif.

When it comes down to it, the biggest issue with constructing a new parking structure — let alone one as big as being proposed here — is the astronomical cost that it would take to tear down the parking lot, erect the structure and widen the street near Lot 30 that would need greater accessibility out of sheer necessity. As discussed earlier, TAPS doesn’t have anywhere near the operating budget to hire approved contractors for construction, so the cost would necessarily have to be taken from an outside source.

The student populace at UCR needs to ask itself whether it is willing to pay for such an expansion, should it ever be adopted to any degree by the school. Commuters already pay through the nose to have permits for the various lots around campus, so should they be expected to pay for the expansion themselves, or can we take this opportunity to come together and transform our school’s makeup altogether into something more amicable to the commuting populace that attends our school and struggles to find reasonable parking?

With funding from the school itself as well as from the students who depend on the extra space, a parking structure is one of the best ways to ameliorate the cramped space in which we find ourselves. UCR should not allow cost to be a barrier to the significant price that a parking structure would ask, whether that means the transferring of funds, an additional student fee or the placing of a large corporate logo on the side of the new building.

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