Editor’s Note: This is the first of two columns. Next Monday’s column will be about the costs of the proposed parking structures and the effects they will have on student, staff and faculty parking fees.

As our campus begins a dialogue on parking needs and finances, it is important that we do so in full possession of the available facts.

We are planning a new 825-space parking structure next to the new California NanoSystems Institute. The CNSI architects have been clever enough to produce a design substantially cheaper than was originally expected for Lot 10. To provide the revenue to fund it, there is a proposed parking rate increase of $10 per month for Winter Quarter, followed by another $5 per month at the end of the Spring Quarter. This proposal will be considered by the Parking and Transportation Committee at its next meeting. If approved, it will be submitted for consultation to other campus agencies, e.g., the Senate’s Faculty Welfare Committee. Planning IS NOT approval. You have to do some planning to even understand what you’re talking about. The planning process is used for other parking structures – if it turns out that they’re too expensive (how would we know that if we don’t do some planning for them?), or we don’t need them after all, we don’t have to go further.

Three years ago, the Chancellor appointed a high-level task force, the Parking Plus II committee, to review the long-range situation of parking at UCSB and make recommendations. Among these were recommendations that three new parking structures be considered: Lot 3 (south of the library), Lot 27 (near the events center), and Lot 10 (near Engineering II). A study on possibilities for an underground structure in Lot 3 has resulted in the general agreement that it is too expensive, and the design for that structure is being reevaluated.

The university will continue to construct new buildings regardless of what does or doesn’t happen with parking. That may not sound like the wisest course, but it is a practical reality – no one is ready to tell the state, the public or even themselves that parking takes priority over academic and research needs.

Between now and 2005, the campus will be constructing seven new instruction, research and student support facilities. Five of these will be constructed on existing parking lots, which have been so designated since 1990. One thousand four hundred and seven parking spaces will be lost – 22.7% of UCSB’s parking spaces. This will start as early as next month, when construction begins on the Engineering-Sciences Building – a loss of approximately 200 parking spaces.

Why build on parking lots? UCSB is short on land on the main campus.

Let’s take a more detailed look at needs. Development is going to take 1,407 spaces from our existing supply. The CNSI-related parking structure will create 825 spaces. It has been suggested that eliminating resident student parking can make up the rest. Right now, we provide 790 resident student spaces.

Unfortunately, the Coastal Commission, in connection with their approval of the Manzanita student housing project, has required that we provide parking for 400 student vehicles. So we can eliminate only 390 resident student spaces, and we’re still almost 200 spaces short.

Our campus has an aggressive alternative transportation program, which saves us around 1,200 spaces. Strengthening this program would help mitigate future need for parking spaces, and quite possibly make up for the shortfall. Besides, as rates go up, some people will undoubtedly find other means of transportation.

But these calculations are based on ZERO GROWTH. What happens if the campus expands its population? What if we continue to establish new research institutes, bring in more faculty, more staff, more students? What about the forthcoming move to a four-quarter academic year – won’t we need more faculty and staff to support that?

Our campus is growing and demand for parking will also grow. By 2010 the campus will need 1,900 more spaces, even with an increase in alternative transportation. It’s hard to see how, over the long term, we will avoid even further parking construction and corresponding increases in parking rates.

The Parking and Transportation Committee looks at the campus’ parking need and the financing options. If you care about parking at UCSB, please participate in the process.

John Doner is the chair of UCSB’s Parking and Transportation Committee.