America and CWRU’s parking problem

America and CWRUs parking problem

Over spring break I flew to Washington, D.C. to visit my cousin. The plan was to rent a car to save money and have an easy and convenient transportation experience. As my family checked out the rental car and began to move deeper into the city, we began to see that our attempt to make things easier for ourselves had clearly backfired. While part of this was because Washington has a lot of traffic, the worst part turned out to be the parking costs.

Upon arriving at the hotel, we were told that the rate to park would be $65 per night. In a desperate effort to find something cheaper, we began to look for parking spots surrounding the hotel instead. I took to the internet to locate nearby parking garages, but to my disappointment, most places did not offer 24-hour parking. Instead, there was a set time when you had to be out of the lot, and the car could not stay overnight. After much searching, I finally found a place around four blocks from our hotel that offered overnight parking for half the price of the hotel. While this was definitely an improvement, it came at the expense of convenience. That being said, it also wasn’t cheap.

This trend continued throughout the trip. We’d leave the hotel, make the trek to the car lot and immediately be pressed to find parking somewhere else in the city—an impossible feat without paying. Upon arriving at Union Station, we were ushered into a parking garage, unable to park on the street due to “rush hour” as one of the meters so kindly informed us. Later, a trip to The Wharf resulted in a parking race in which every 30 minutes in the garage racked up another $10 on the bill. This didn’t account for the fact that it took 30 minutes just to find a spot because of a glaring lack of space.

It got to a point where instead of using the car, my family would leave it parked in the overnight garage and head several blocks down to catch the bus.

Although not nearly as crowded and headache-inducing as Washington, this spring break experience reminded me vaguely of the parking situation on Case Western Reserve University’s campus. As a campus resident, the monthly rate to have your car on campus ranges from $72.40 to a whopping $104. Per semester, this would amount to $441 on average, but could easily be higher by about $80. Specific lots have specific rates, meaning that switching between different lots on campus is not exactly an option for students. For example, if you live on North Side, your parking pass would specifically get you into the North Side parking garage.

While this makes sense in terms of guaranteeing parking for students near their places of residence, it also seems a bit unfair as those who pay for parking are denied the ability to park where they would like to on campus. For example, last year, my friend was having trouble with one of her legs, so she briefly parked on one of the North Side streets, and came back to find that her car had been ticketed. Upon submitting an emailed explanation, she received no response and ended up paying the fee despite having a valid reason for parking where she did.

I found that experience to be particularly troubling because she was already paying the exorbitant price for parking. To me, it would make sense that she would be allowed to park on campus in any place that is not traffic-obtrusive or that doesn’t inconvenience those paying for campus parking or working—particularly because she had a valid reason to park in a different space than the lot that she was assigned.

Expanding on this concern, some faculty and staff members that I’ve worked with on campus have also complained about the relentless ticketing and patrolling of the lots. After spending less than an hour in a lot without express clearance, one of my colleagues told me that she had received a ticket while attending an event that her own office had organized. To me, it seems ridiculous and ironic that someone would have to pay an additional fee to briefly park in a different garage in order to do work that actually benefits the school.

Because of the steep fee placed on having a car on campus in addition to the lack of parking flexibilty, many students I know decided to keep their car at home the second semester and the following year. This decision limits the mobility of students, particularly those who don’t feel safe using public transportation—especially while traveling alone—or do not have the means to purchase rideshares through companies such as Lyft or Uber. According to The New York Post, Uber costs between 2018 and 2022 have increased at four times the rate of inflation. With the prices fluctuating heavily based on demand, it makes sense why a college student would choose to stay in the University Circle bubble instead of venturing out to see the rest of the city.

Although CWRU tuition includes a semester-long RTA pass and provides shuttles to places such as Coventry Village and nearby retail stores, the times that these run are often inconvenient, unreliable or packed with students looking to stock up on groceries. And while limiting the amount of vehicles on the road may be better for the environment, it ultimately doesn’t prove to be better for the student experience.

In my opinion, the biggest culprit in this entire transportation and parking situation is American city planning. Many cities have been built in a way that prevents walkability among the general public. People are expected to drive long distances in order to accomplish daily tasks. In Ohio, for example, the 2021 average drive time to work was about 24 minutes. Today, you need to travel in a car to cross interstates, make it across the street or even do something as simple as get from your house to the grocery store.

I can remember a journey to the International Exposition Center I took last year with some friends. We’d taken the train to the airport, thinking the less-than-a-mile distance could easily be conquered by walking, but we were disappointed to find out that the only practical way we could get there was by car. Even when using our RTA passes, we had to call an Uber in order to make it to our destination—and ironically, the cost ended up being the same as it would have been to just take a car from the school campus instead.

The enforcement of high parking rates across America is ridiculous in a society that’s created the problem of unwalkable cities in the first place. Instead of these strict policies, we should create a better transportation system, one that doesn’t inconvenience people or charge them ridiculously high fees for simply trying to travel.America and CWRU’s parking problem

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