Letter to the Edior

Lisa Bahls

“As a third-year commuter at UW Oshkosh, I have had more than a few unpleasant experiences while trying to find a parking space. Based on what I hear while walking across campus and waiting around for classes, I am definitely not in the minority when it comes to experiencing these irritations.

When students who harbor stress from their classes, their social lives and their jobs must also try to maneuver commuting problems, there is often one thought that creeps into the mind: this campus needs more parking. I have thought this to myself and voiced as much to fellow commuters a number of times during my years at UWO.

But that is the very issue that I would like to address here. While campus parking is not perfect, creating more parking spaces is not the only possible method for improvement. In fact, seeking immediate action may not be the best plan for the University or for students, either.

There are a number of possible solutions to UWO’s parking problems, and the reasons behind them can be explained through simple economics. The first solution may seem obvious, and that would be to simply add more parking spaces. Increasing supply to meet demand and forcing a state of equilibrium, if you will. However, this could prove to be an expensive and short-sighted fix that ends up costing more than it is worth.

Another possible solution is to decrease the supply of parking permits in circulation. While demand would increase for those available permits, driving their price up, the students still willing to purchase a permit would have greater access to parking spaces. This would likely be an unfavorable outcome, even though it would solve the issue of the parking space shortage.

Simply raising the price of existing permits would create the same situation, just with the number of permits available for sale remaining unchanged. As in the above example, some of the potential commuting market would be pushed out. Again, this would be an unfortunate situation, but this would also solve the primary parking problem by decreasing the number of parking lot users.

A third solution is to change the regulations regarding commuting, namely the distance from which a student is allowed to commute. This would decrease the demand for parking permits and thus increase the supply of parking spaces for those with parking permits. Furthermore, students living within that commutable distance could be offered incentives to use other modes of transportation. Even if other transport methods such as the city bus or carpooling are only occasionally used, doing so would still keep spots open more often during the school week.

This last solution sits halfway between addressing and ignoring the entire parking problem. Because of the constant advancements in technology, the most reasonable course of action may be to wait and see how time and progress affect circumstances. While cars that drive themselves home, find their own parking spots off-campus or even go off to run errands while the drivers are still in class are not likely to be commodities that could change UWO’s parking situation, technology that could reduce the cost of building more parking spaces or allow for previously unrealized solutions could be on the horizon.

When I first enrolled in college, I gave no thought to parking and its potential problems. Now that I have had plenty of experience with both, I realize how important improving campus parking can be with regards to relieving stress and expense from a great number of students. Finding a universal solution is definitely easier said than done, but at the current moment the most beneficial course of action for the commuters and for the campus alike may just be to wait a while, keep an eye on the issue and see how time affects conditions.”