More Construction, Less Student Parking
The newest addition to the numerous renovation projects at UC Irvine is the construction that recently began in what used to be Lot 3. The lot in front of the social sciences buildings, which originally accommodated 83 faculty and staff reserved parking stalls, is now the construction site of what will soon be the new social and behavioral sciences building.
The construction of the building is estimated to be a two-year project. While students and faculty alike welcome this enhancement to the campus and will no doubt benefit from it, there is the disadvantage of losing valuable parking spaces in an already cramped campus where restrictions on parking are very specific.
With Lot 3’s transformation into a new building and parts of Lot 5 already being used as ‘laydown’ space by construction contractors, parking spaces at UCI dwindle especially in comparison to the growing population of commuters and the increased traffic that will most probably result from the opening of the newly expanded Student Center.
Ronald Fleming, associate director of UCI Parking and Transportation Services, assures students that according to the ‘parking stall utilization figures, we [UCI Transportation Services] were able to relocate the stalls [in Lot 3] lost to construction to nearby Lot 1 without adversely affecting other commuters.’ However, to ensure the availability of parking for faculty and staff members, students will no longer be allowed to park in Lot 1.
As for Lot 5, Fleming reports that the 152 parking spaces lost to construction will be regained as the work in and around the Student Center slowly comes to an end. As of now, 75 of the 152 parking stalls have already been returned for student access.
Furthermore, while the reopening of the Student Center offers several indoor venues for large events and was a much-awaited occasion, it also foreshadowed a looming parking problem. The challenge of coordinating events to make sure that parking is always available is the responsibility of the Transportation Service event staff, Student Center staff and Scheduling and Conference Services’ officials. Fleming reassured that Transportation Services remains in constant contact with the appropriate officials to ensure smooth flow of traffic.
Fleming stated that ‘Transportation Services does not receive state funds to operate or build parking facilities or programs’ and relies ‘solely on user fees to meet operating costs and to pay for debt service.’ Therefore, the slight decrease in parking options for students cannot affect Transportation Services’ decision to maintain its firm stance on the issuance of parking citations to anyone in violation of parking regulations.
While Fleming can understand the disappointment in discovering parking citations, he points out that the ‘vast majority of citations issued at UCI are for ‘no valid permit,” not for parking in areas undesignated by parking permits. He says that ‘enforcement is vital to ensure that parking is available to those who pay their share.’ Furthermore, ‘proceeds from enforcement activities go directly to sustainable transportation programs.’
While the ongoing construction at UCI is accepted as a normal part of everyday life and appreciated for its improvement to the campus, its toll on the parking situation will no doubt need to be readdressed in the near future as UCI’s commuter population continues to grow.