Today, my roommate, who is currently working on his honors thesis in public policy studies, recounted to me a story from an interview he conducted with an unnamed state representative. While conversing with the representative about our University, the interviewee commented, “Duke University really is a gem…a truly state-of-the-art campus. Everything is amazing, except the parking. The parking situation is embarrassing.”
My first thought at hearing this admission was, “At least it’s not just me.” At least I’m not the only one bi***ing about the parking situation on campus. And presumably, I’ve spent a lot more time on this campus recently than the commenting party.
My friends and I have a joke when it comes to parking in the Blue Zone on West Campus—that there are four levels to the Blue Zone Game: winning (parking in the “Miracle Lot,” or the former Tailgate Lot), losing, really losing and really f***ing losing. I’ve often suggested that I should write an article about the absurdity of the parking situation on campus, but I’ve always refrained either to avoid sounding like a whiny, entitled Duke student or because there were more pressing issues at hand worthy of discussion.
Today, I’ve given up on the former and there are none of the latter. The student parking situation deserves a conversation for two reasons. For one, the state of student parking is even worse than it was when I matriculated to this University three years ago. Secondly, the current West Union renovations have me wondering what the administrators’ primary motivations are with the current campus construction projects.
In their defense, the dilemma facing the administrators is a relatively unique one since Duke requires its students to live on campus for three years, and it is one of the few private universities to allow freshman students to have cars on campus. The simple fact of the matter is that the demand for parking has overwhelmed the current supply, and, as a result, this issue has come to a head this academic year. Just weeks ago, Duke University Parking and Transportation Services announced adjustments to the West Campus Blue Zone lots, designating three parking lots as “commuter only” lots, thereby prohibiting overnight parking in these spaces. While this announcement came as positive news to senior commuters like myself, this change represents an even greater inconvenience for West Campus students who choose to have a car on campus. Freshmen living on East Campus may soon be out of luck as well, as Duke Parking and Transportation Services has recently held discussions with Duke Student Government regarding the elimination of freshman parking, potentially to make room for the needs of the Duke Hospital and Medical Center.
While I do not mean to exaggerate the perceived plight of Duke students with regards to on-campus parking, it does frustrate me that the situation at hand seems to have such a simple and—relatively speaking—inexpensive solution. Constructing a parking deck in the first Blue Zone lot similar to the Bryan Center parking deck would simultaneously improve the parking situation for students on West Campus. Additionally, this will allow for more spaces for Medical Center parking without the elimination of East Campus parking for freshmen. And while I’m no expert, I’d imagine my proposed parking deck would represent a significantly smaller financial burden compared to the current West Union renovations.
Don’t get me wrong—it’s not that the new West Union building will not greatly enhance the student experience at Duke University. It’s just that, in my three plus years here, I have never once heard a student complain about how the design of the West Union building negatively impacted their student experience. When it comes to parking, however, I hear that complaint on a near weekly basis. Perhaps the more ascetically significant West Union renovations take priority since they will be more apparent to prospective students than a relatively obscure parking deck. But that begs the question, who should University administrators be more interested in pleasing: the students already paying tuition or the prospective candidates whose money they may never see?
Here’s how I see it: 50 years from now, the campus improvement I’d be most happy to see upon my return is a shorter walk from the car for my arthritis-beleaguered body.
Scott Briggs is a Trinity senior and the editorial page editor. His biweekly column is part of the weekly Editor’s Note feature and runs on alternate Thursdays. Send Scott a message on Twitter @SBriggsChron.