Parking at Duke has undergone two major changes. First, the freshmen parking lots have moved to Smith Warehouse. This makes some sense. With Baldwin Auditorium now open and holding regular events, Duke needs to accommodate concert attendees and other visitors.
Making it a little tougher for freshmen to access their cars may not be so bad. After all, one of Duke’s main goals for the first year experience is for students to establish strong class bonds through shared experiences like dining at the Marketplace. In the past, freshmen skipping off campus to grab dinner has threatened to undermine this goal.
Students have, however, voiced legitimate concerns about safety. Some students feel uncomfortable walking to their cars at night when the Smith Warehouse bus is not running. If it is not feasible to have a bus running to Smith every night, then the University should ensure that the short walk to the parking lot from the intersection of Campus Drive and Maxwell Avenue is amply lit and adequately staffed with security guards.
Second, the introduction of a commuter parking zone in place of the “miracle lot” has provoked frustration among students discontent with a longer walk to their cars. Although walking to the back of the Blue Zone is certainly inconvenient, claims that the parking changes “marginalize” undergraduates overstate the problem. It seems reasonable that the people who use their cars most frequently—namely, graduate students and professors who come and go from campus daily—should have easy access to them.
We have always advocated that students explore Durham and remain wary of changes that make it more difficult for students to do so. We doubt these parking changes are substantial enough to deter students from traveling off campus. Duke provides ample opportunities for undergraduates to leave campus—including offering GoPasses, which grant free, unlimited rides on Triangle Transit, Capital Area Transit, DATA and the Robertson Bus to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Moreover, campus organizations like Devils after Dark sponsor events that transport students to local attractions and malls. In the end, however, it is up to students to take the initiative to leave campus.
Because some students use their cars very infrequently—often only to travel between Duke and their homes during breaks—Duke should explore the possibility of creating cheaper, long-term parking lots further from campus. Long-term parking lots might reduce pressure on the lots near campus, expanding parking options for students who drive more frequently. In any case, this year’s parking inconveniences—which are frustrating now—will fade with time into normality.