Editorial: Parking panic at UVic

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Ah, parking. Few other topics have the power to incite such furor on campus as the debate over transportation termini. From Malahat commuters to UVic’s closest neighbours, nobody seems to agree on the best plan for handling the university’s traffic, and the controversial plan for the university’s new Centre for Athletics, Recreation and Special Abilities (CARSA) is the latest battleground. The parking lot on which CARSA will be built was recently closed in preparation for construction, sending many drivers into a tizzy.

UVic first got engaged with the Saanich municipality about CARSA in 2009 when it was preparing to apply for variances on building height limits and parking requirements. Saanich bylaws require one motor vehicle space for each 50 square metres of building, and given that the building is being constructed on top of an existing parking lot (due to UVic’s efficient land use strategy) while also adding more building space, the university will be even shorter on parking than before. Yes, CARSA will include a 332-stall parkade — but that’s 256 fewer parking spots than the bylaw requirements.

The first response for many is to point to the bus system and other transportation options. CARSA alone features parking for 170 bicycles, and the university is a prominent transit hub with 11 bus routes coming through. UVic has leaned on these other options as justifications for the parking famine, and has had support from groups like the Cadboro Bay Residents’ Association (CBRA). “. . . We would like [UVic] to continue to encourage people to get to campus by means other than by car — so by bike, walking or transit,” UVic-CBRA liason Barbara Raponi told the Martlet in October.

It’s all well and good to support alternate methods of transport, and the spirit is well received here at UVic, the land of green grass and healthy trees (bunnies no longer included). But for many of us, it’s just not that simple. Sometimes a car can be absolutely necessary for those trying to balance work, school and whatever else. And not everyone lives just a stone’s throw away; for those who have to commute an hour or more each day to campus, parking is a serious problem.

By the time you get here, the last thing you want to worry about is finding a place to put your vehicle — but with the recent lot closure, on top of the already sparse spaces, you can easily find yourself driving around full lots, all around campus. Let’s not forget about all that dough you have to fork out every year for a parking pass, which doesn’t guarantee you a spot, either — only more frustration when you have to do the parking lot circuit a third time.

Perhaps it’s time for UVic to consider a parking pass cost based on home proximity. That way, those who drive to school when they could walk, bike or bus will have to think twice, and those who really have no other option will not be penalized daily by the lack of parking.

In the meantime, start a carpool and make some new friends. If you’re 10 minutes from campus and capable of walking, do it. Otherwise, you are imposing a big cost on your fellow students and professors whenever you drive. It’s time to decide whether or not your car-enabled lunchtime dash to get pho is worth the real expense.

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