Saturday, December 5, 2009

Parking, parking, parking part 1

There has been a heated debate about the issue of parking in the city of Winnipeg.

I have been following the story in the Manitoban about the situation at the University of Manitoba and Free Press and Sun have been reporting about the issue downtown and the Health Sciences Centre.

In the case of the University of Manitoba, it has been a point/counterpoint argument. People interviewed on the story for parking there complained about how difficult it was too find parking. Many have simply told the complainers to take the bus. The response is that Pembina buses are often filled and pass by people waiting at stops until the next bus arrives.

The university only built a parkade in the last years and it is often filled to capacity.

Now, I can't speak to the issue of what is going on at the University of Manitoba but let's be clear: The university is not easy for everyone to get to no matter what mode of transportation ones takes. Walking, cycling, public transit and cars all have problems in terms of time, availability, distance, exposure to the elements and personal danger.

There are 6,400 cars going back and forth to the University of Manitoban. That number won't go down substantially unless the university does more to increase usage, availability and convenience of public transit to the students and faculty.

The new transit corridor the city is building may help a bit in terms of traffic along one path. However, it will be quite some time before it is in place.

It is possible that the university has oversold the parking spaces it does have on campus. This has been suggested by some but not confirmed by parking managers at the U of M.

In the end, whatever the reason is for the parking issues, it is important to realize that they are indeed issues. It doesn't help to tell people to get to the university earlier if it means that parking spots are filled earlier. It will still be musical chairs where someone doesn't get a spot.

In the meantime, what can be done? In terms of parking, the university has to get more people into carpools. With greater financial incentives and possibly better parking spots for people transporting a certain number of students, it is possible to reduce the amount of cars heading to the university.

Long term, the university would do well to have more people living on campus rather than commuting.

Where the university has no real control is in terms of available city-wide buses or climate controlled shelters for people to wait for them. As one student has indicated, waiting for a bus and then taking a bus over a great distance can be time consuming. Perhaps that can be mitigated by ever greater park and ride express buses to the university.

Whatever the choices, they won't happen soon enough for some students to benefit.

We live in a car world. The location of the University of Manitoba contributes to the problem but it is unlikely we are going to see that change. Nor are we going to see an end to the car given the sprawl of the city. The only thing that will help is to find ways of reducing the car traffic to the university that works for students and faculty.

I will address the issue of Health Sciences Centre in another posts as that affects the University of Manitoba Bannatyne campus and the hospital together.

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