More viable parking lot options needed for fairness


Chocolate liegeois


More viable parking lot options needed for fairness**

Of late, car drivers on West have certainly realized that parking at Duke costs more than the $140 paid at the beginning of the semester. How many lost hours will students spend over the course of the year looking for legal parking spaces or walking from lots a half mile distance from main West? What is this time worth? What about parking tickets?

From personal observation, it seems readily apparent that Parking Services has significantly oversold parking permits, much the same as a doctor who triple-schedules patients on the assumption that his or her time is more valuable than that of the sick petitioner. Over-selling permits should prove lucrative for Duke. In addition to the $140 made for each non-existent space, Public Safety will benefit from those unfortunates who decide that their time is better spent studying than circling in the Ocean and choosing a space of questionable legality.

Suppose that for each 10 oversold spaces, Public Safety might expect to give 30 percent of those cars a ticket each month. If the average ticket is $25, then Duke would make $75 per month for every 10 oversold permits generating a profit of $600 per year for those 10 cars. Thus, the true cost of parking at Duke is not only the $140 plus time spent looking for a space, but also the expectation of the cost of tickets over the course of the year. These figures may not accurately represent true profit margins, but they should demonstrate the type of analysis which could suggest itself when Duke decides how many parking permits to sell.

The obvious solution--to sell only the exact number of available permits--poses several problems. How would Duke allocate the spaces fairly? First come, first serve? A lottery? Let the market for spaces establish a price through rounds of bidding during the summer? None of these solutions would seem fair at face value. Preventing students from having cars because they cannot get a parking permit would preclude many from working off-campus jobs necessary to remaining at Duke; moreover, for some, quality-of-life at Duke depends heavily on access to off-campus transportation. Preventing those students from having cars might significantly diminish their on-campus satisfaction.

Not everyone who brings a car to Duke, however, uses it frequently or is bothered by long walks to distant parking lots, yet these students must pay exactly the same amount to park as those who greatly value easy access to their vehicles. Parking Services already has the university divided into zones W, E, N, RT, etc.--where only the appropriate permit allows parking. Duke should further subdivide these zones into smaller areas priced according to the attractiveness of the location.

Although it may be logical to include all lots around the Ocean in a single zone, it makes little sense to include the lots near the IM building in such a grouping. Regardless of how it is accomplished, Parking Services should have little difficulty in rationally determining which lots logically complement one another.

Duke could keep the broad classifications it already has, but permits with that wide scope should cost significantly more than those of smaller utility. The price of parking for the far lots should fall well below current rates to reflect the decreased convenience of the parking. Duke should then construct an additional parking lot across the street from the Ocean on Towerview to accommodate those who wish to take advantage of lower prices for the more inconvenient parking.

To those who argue against policies that allow the wealthy to purchase increased comfort, should we prevent individuals from having TVs, stereos or computers in their rooms? Moreover, in the long run, differently priced parking regions would lower the total cost of parking at Duke for all students (when judged from after the permit has been purchased). Public Safety would issue fewer tickets; students would spend less time searching for parking. Only those students purchasing the expensive parking would pay more; everyone else's costs would decline in both absolute and post-permit purchase terms.

Finally, why not simply build the extra parking lot to eliminate the problem and keep the same pricing structure? Two reasons. First, uniform rates mean that students who feel less inconvenienced by a short walk to their cars subsidize the price for students who have a strong preference for close parking. Second, why should students who use their cars only infrequently be forced to pay the same rates as those who drive often?

Price controls rarely work and with respect to parking, they represent an added cost to the Duke education for every student with a car.

Alex Rogers is a Trinity senior.


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