Many students are convinced that bringing a car to school is a good idea. But consider this: the University has 29,745 students, 1,650 faculty members, and about 11,700 staff, including UI Hospitals and Clinics employees. Slightly fewer than 15,000 parking spaces are available. Therein lies the problem.
Many students decide to rely on Cambus, the University’s free bus system, to get to classes and back home. David Ricketts, director of parking and transportation, says that most students simply don’t need a car to get around campus.
“Iowa City and Coralville, with a combined population of roughly 85,000 people, have three bus lines—and one of them is free. There’s an east-side shuttle operated by Iowa City Transit in neighborhoods where many students live, and that’s free, too. Even when there is a charge, the University offers discounted tickets that reduce the cost to $10 a month.”
Cambus operates until 1 a.m. Sunday through Thursday and until 2:30 a.m. Friday and Saturday during the school year, he says.
But other students need cars to get home on weekends and to travel to jobs off campus. For them, the University has some solutions.
One is the Hawkeye storage lot, on the west edge of campus, where students can leave their cars until they need them, paying $50 per semester. Since there are almost no parking spaces for students living in residence halls (Mayflower has very limited student parking), this is a popular solution. Cambus serves the lot until after midnight, all week long during the school year.
“Students who commute to Iowa City may also apply to park in commuter lots at Hancher and Finkbine, for $15 a month,” Ricketts says. “Another option is to obtain a free permit, which allows them to park for 50 cents an hour at the Main Library, in the center of campus.”
For students who try to keep their cars in town, life can become very complicated. Sometimes, they can find parking spaces available on Iowa City streets near campus, but many streets have no parking between 2 and 6 a.m. Meters near the University frequently are set for one-hour parking, which is difficult for students attending almost-one-hour classes. Ramp garages are very expensive if used as long-term parking lots. So students who choose to drive their cars face constant hassles finding a spot to park, having to feed meters, and trying to avoid parking tickets.
An August series of articles in the Iowa City Press-Citizen said that the University’s six full-time parking ticket enforcement officers and 20 student employees issued more than 100,000 parking tickets during fiscal year 2003. Iowa City traffic enforcement adds 200,000 more tickets per year, the paper said, which makes Iowa City “the undisputed parking ticket capital of Iowa.”
Some students have accumulated $1,000 worth of tickets over their years at the University, the paper said. If a student accumulates fines within one year totaling $150 or more, either paid or unpaid, his or her car will be placed on the “tow list,” meaning that any infraction can result in a car being towed.
Ricketts says that the demand for parking is continually growing among faculty, administrators, staff, and students. And while parking capacity is increasing, the increases don’t meet all the demand. That’s where increasing transportation options and amenities comes in.
“For several years, we have been improving the alternatives to driving,” he says. “We have 1,100 students buying the discounted bus tickets, for example, and our new bike racks are used well. It really makes sense to consider the alternatives, since they’re much cheaper than driving.”
by Anne Tanner