This is my first quarter commuting and navigating the limited, crowded parking lots that UCI has to offer. I have heard and read my fair share of parking-related horror stories from friends. They have had their cars completely scratched, had to park at a farther lot and walk another half hour to get to campus, and even had to pay for a day pass when the lots were full. As a result, I went into this quarter bracing myself for the worst while still trying to maintain the best possible attitude. Over the past five weeks, I have learned a few things that have improved my perspective on parking.
On the days I have an 11 a.m. class, I know that I will end up parking on the rooftop of Anteater Parking Structure. The first few days of hoping and crossing my fingers for a spot on the third or fourth floor were futile. Now that I anticipate parking on the seventh floor, I have a brighter attitude. I always drive up to the roof and see that here are tons of open spots.
By parking on the top floor, I am not only able to get a stunning view of campus, but also complete my steps for the day. Walking down the seven flights of stairs allows me to plan out my day and focus on how grateful I am to be able to get to school safely and soundly. Usually, those five minutes carve out the perfect time to make a quick phone call to a loved one to check in and let them know how I am doing. And although it’s only a short detour, walking can improve your mood, strengthen your muscles, and, in substantial amounts, lower the risk of heart disease and lead to a longer life.
Still, I know that we are college students with utility bills, rent, book costs, tuition to pay, and parking is another fee that adds to our stress. The option of building new parking lots to accommodate our cars seems like the easiest solution, but taking into consideration the time, planning, and money it would take to do that makes it less plausible. This past summer, UCI’s maintenance crew worked on 25 parking lots, consisting of over half a million square feet of asphalt, to enhance the groundwork of our campus. Nonetheless, part of UCI’s long-term development plan includes a new parking lot that will begin construction this upcoming winter. The 1,000 new available parking stalls will cost around five million dollars.
The money we already pay toward parking on campus goes to a number of different resources that the UCI Transportation and Distribution department provides “Keep UCI Moving” is an initiative to educate students about sustainable transportation. For example, bike infrastructure is being added all around campus; there are over 6,000 spaces for bikes ranging from the Student Center to the Physical Sciences buildings. Furthermore, UCI Transportation conducts the removal of potholes, slurry sealing, painting, signage, graffiti and trash removal, lighting, and oil removal and is expected to spend $4.9 million on parking and traffic infrastructure this 2017-2018 fiscal year. Bike infrastructure, on the other hand, only costs approximately $300,000; this includes the designing and building costs.
Cars are the fastest option to get to school, but there are plenty of other options as well, such as walking, taking the bus, and biking. I realize that the public transportation system in Southern California is close to nonexistent and that walking may not be a plausible option for students who live a lot farther. Nevertheless, these alternative methods can be a fun experience to try at least once. The benefits of all these other commuting alternatives include boosting your mental health from not having to deal with road rage or traffic, saving money on gas, insurance, parking and less air pollution. I challenge you to find a friend to carpool or take the bus with once a month. This can become an exciting tradition to start where you can reduce your carbon footprint, while spending time with friends.
Parking is and always has been a problematic topic among our student body. Hopefully we can all gain a new outlook on the costs, maintenance, and behind-the-scenes work that goes into making sure our students are taken care of and safe. Walking, biking and carpooling are a few options to take advantage of to avoid the hassle of parking on campus.
Waresa Hu is a third-year business economics major. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.