Transportation’s System Failure
It seems as if now, more than any other time in recent history, being a student is particularly difficult. As a class, we have no choice but to bear the consequences of the mistakes of our predecessors, shoulder the debt they’ve racked up and deal with an economy that is about as worn out as Amy Winehouse’s hairpiece. While a lagging job market waits at the end of our education, the massive cuts in the educational system impair the very generation meant to absolve the debt and revive the economy.
In tough times like these, when everyone is detrimentally affected, it is important to remain close with those that are willing to help and UC Irvine has been somewhat lacking in this department.
The University is constantly requesting that we help out on campus, get involved with the school, do what we can — but what about us? When was the last time the University took student needs into consideration? This attitude shows a shift in responsibility from the usual role of the UC system to a new culture of student activism. The question is where UC responsibility ends and where student activism begins.
Transportation is a small but significant example of UCI. It should attempt to reach out to the students it serves but instead it fails by hiking prices and allocating money unwisely.
If a student resides on campus or in any facility owned by UC Irvine, he or she must pay for a parking pass.
This makes sense; even if a student lived in an apartment off campus, chances are that he or she would be paying for some sort of parking pass. But UCI’s parking pass system is both unrealistic and unhelpful to the student.
A Campus Village/Mesa/Middle Earth/Arroyo Vista parking pass costs a whopping 80 dollars a month. This means that the average student ends up paying roughly 790 dollars a year simply to park a car.
Although that is expensive by any means, the concept is still understandable. The UC does have a right to charge its inhabitants for renting space. But UCI overlooks a basic fact of economics and a proven economic tactic. It would be in everyone’s interest to provide incentives to get buyers to actually want to purchase the product. UCI should introduce package deals for quarter-long or year-long parking passes. The vast majority of businesses give their customers discounts for buying more. Why can’t UCI? It is the least we could do to alleviate some of the financial woes that having a car in Irvine brings.
If bringing a car to UCI is out of the question, students may choose to ride a bike around campus.
But even that possibility is hindered by well-intentioned but badly planned policies. Bike riders are not allowed on the outer ring of campus. The parts of the campus that are accessible to bikers are so few and so disconnected that it is highly impractical to rely on a bike as a mode of transportation.
With that minor impracticality in mind, lets turn to UCI’s new bike share program. Hoping to encourage more bike riders, UC Irvine has implemented ZotWheels, a campus-wide program that is similar to Paris’ and Amsterdam’s bike rental setups.
Students join the program online, and then, having paid the $40 annual fee, can visit any of the four locations on campus to rent a bike. When they are done using the bike, students can return it to any of the four stations.
Theoretically, ZotWheels is a serious boon to the UCI community. UCI is working towards becoming a more economically friendly and environmentally conscious campus. Encouraging biking seems like an ideal solution. But as long as the lack of available space to ride bikes on and off campus continues, the program remains inconvenient to maneuver. No one wants to pay for a bike that he or she won’t even be able to ride, especially when every bike ride around campus seems to be an open invitation for a ticket from overzealous campus police. And despite wandering bikers, incompetent walkers on bike paths beckon disaster on a guaranteed collision course.
A simple solution might be to paint bike friendly areas alongside walkways. Other UC campuses like Davis and Santa Barbara have plenty of bike riders, most of whom solely rely on their two wheels to get around. Their bike friendly campuses are what allow them to freely take advantage of the convenience and affordability of a bicycle.
Now, especially as shuttle services become more expensive and less frequent, getting to and around the UC Irvine campus will be more difficult than ever.
With growing tuition, a decreasing faculty population, and class cuts, it often seems that the student body is giving far more than it gets. But you’ve got to give us something, UCI! Even if it’s just a bike path.
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