Spaced Out

Good news: UA is adding parking. Bad news: They'll still be 3,000 spaces short.

The University of Arizona is notorious for its lack of parking. Everybody knows that.

Everybody also knows that the UA has parking facility construction planned to help this problem.

But here's the rub: After the planned parking garages are built, they'll still have a need for 3,000 more parking spaces.

"If you look at the new Sixth Street parking garage, you realize [the remaining need for parking will cause cars] to be spaced out along the neighborhood around the university," says Matt Somers, a Rincon Heights Neighborhood Association member.

According to Somers' notes from the last hearing regarding the new Campus Comprehensive Plan, held last Nov. 18, there are presently about 16,000 parking spaces available for 50,000 students. And in the end, there will still be a parking deficit of 3,000 spaces. Somers says that won't cause much of an additional problem in already-packed Rincon Heights, but it will in other neighborhoods.

"It will put a tremendous stress on North University, Sam Hughes, and other places that don't have parking permits," says Somers.

The UA Campus Comprehensive Plan is a long-range land use plan that provides a framework in which the UA can accommodate its needs for additional space. It proposes that the UA can grow roughly 8 million square feet within its existing planning area boundaries. This includes property the UA has not yet purchased, but plans to, in neighborhoods directly adjacent to campus such as North University, Jefferson Park and Rincon Heights Neighborhoods.

What concerns Somers is that with the increases in faculty and students that would come with 8 million more square feet of university, parking will be a continued problem.

"With the new Comprehensive Plan there doesn't seem to be any strong enforcement of some kind of transportation control of staff and students that will be coming soon," he says. "It's the same mentality of 'build more parking garages.' If the UA is causing these sorts of problems around the area, they should find and fund some way to take care of the problems they are creating for the neighborhoods, especially when it comes to parking."

Somers acknowledges that caps on students and staff that would eliminate a parking dilemma could be detrimental to the UA.

David Duffy, Director of Campus and Facilities Planning, chuckles when asked about the parking mess, saying that every university campus faces parking problems.

"It's a question of: How much parking do you want to provide? Because there is always going to be that demand," says Duffy, adding that the university negotiates with neighborhoods, like Rincon Heights, where they've reached a memorandum of understanding. "People will always want more parking and parking convenient to their particular building. We're not proposing an indefinite increase in university campus parking. For every parking garage that we build, we're taking space away from other uses.

"We don't have that much land area to begin with: 477 acres. The UA is one of the smallest campuses based on our peers as far as campus acreage. So we want a pedestrian-oriented campus."

The Campus Comprehensive Plan therefore focuses on alternative modes of transportation, such as mass transit, bicycling and pedestrian traffic.

"We feel we can make a tremendous impact in reducing the number of cars coming to campus," Duffy says. "We'll be pulling traffic that is circulating around the periphery of campus, looking for on-street parking, through good signage and with the understanding that there is a parking structure they can go to rather than driving around ... hunting for that parking space."

Duffy also feels the Campus Comprehensive Plan can also make a tremendous impact in reducing the number of cars coming to campus.

"Does that entail building parking decks?" he asks. "Yeah, because we need to take out those surface parking lots that are land consumptive for other building sites," says Duffy.

What particularly concerns Somers is the placing of parking garages adjacent to residential areas, such as the one slated for Mabel Street and Highland Avenue, to be completes in 2005.

"My question has always been: Why don't you put the parking garage on Speedway, so there would be a better flow of traffic and you can bring [the parking garage] around to Cherry?" Somers asks. "Putting these large structures, even 30 feet back from these residential areas increases the amount of crime, pollution and noise that affect the whole neighborhood. And since they are so tall there is nothing to stop the sound from traveling--let's say, a car alarm going off at 1 or 2 o'clock in the morning."

The question in the end, says Somers, is how the university is going to put any money towards mass transit and work with the community to decrease automobile traffic.

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