In the recently proposed parking permit plan for Isla Vista, county planners aimed to address the findings of two traffic studies a few years ago.
In one study, conducted in May 2002, the parking habits of both residents and commuters were tracked to identify the root of the parking problem in I.V. The study attributed the problem to a spillover of UCSB parking, a scarcity of off-street parking and a high number of UCSB undergraduate students with access to cars.
Jamie Goldstein, Santa Barbara County Redevelopment Agency project manager, said the study was a manual traffic count performed by Associated Transportation Engineers, an engineering company based in Berkeley. The county hired ATE to get a better idea of the root of the I.V. parking problem.
“The biggest purpose of the commuter survey was to try to get a handle on the problem,” Goldstein said. “It was trying to get a quantifiable estimate.”
For the study, ATE tallied the number of cars that entered I.V. where El Colegio Road intersects Embarcadero del Norte, Embarcadero del Mar, Camino Pescadero, Camino Del Sur and Camino Corto. Goldstein said the vehicles were then tracked to determine whether people were parking in I.V. to access the UCSB campus.
“A number of cars were followed to their parking spots,” Goldstein said. “They physically followed cars and watched what people did.”
According to the study, 1,224 of the 4,284 drivers that entered I.V. between 7 a.m. and 4 p.m. on a Tuesday, parked in I.V. and walked to campus. The data showed that 63 percent of these cars entered at Embarcadero del Norte and crowded the streets closest to campus. During the tracking survey, on-street parking averaged 95 to 100 percent full and drivers circulated an average of 5 to 10 minutes before finding a space.
“The point behind these numbers is that there are a lot of people who park in Isla Vista and walk onto campus,” Goldstein said.
Under the proposed plan, non-I.V. residents would not be able to obtain parking permits. This is to deter UCSB commuters from parking in I.V. and then walking to campus. Goldstein said the study was helpful to the county planning commission.
“These surveys are just different tools that we use,” Goldstein said.
James Khedari, a senior global studies major and resident of downtown Santa Barbara, said he parks in I.V. four times per week. He said the parking problem would not be solved by prohibiting non-I.V. residents from purchasing a permit.
“It is only going to force people like me to surrender to UCSB and pay for a parking permit,” Khedari said. “Kids are still going to bring their cars and parking will still be an issue. It will be an issue until a real parking solution is implemented.”
In April 2002, Santa Barbara County hired Nelson\Nygaard Consulting Associates, a San Francisco-based firm, to conduct a telephone survey to research the nature of vehicle ownership and travel among I.V. residents. Of the 526 residents interviewed, 53 percent were UCSB undergraduates. The survey showed a high level of vehicle access among undergraduates in comparison to graduate students, staff and non-student I.V. residents. Eighty-seven percent of undergraduates interviewed said they have access to a vehicle, in contrast to 61 percent of the graduate students interviewed.
According to the telephone survey, most residents have an off-street parking spot available, but a large number usually find their cars blocked by other vehicles or are forced to park on the street. Jeffrey Tumlin, a Nelson\Nygaard partner, said the study also attempted to examine the driving habits of I.V. residents. The majority of undergraduates interviewed said they only drive to UCSB, downtown Santa Barbara and the Camino Real Marketplace on a regular basis.
The Nelson\Nygaard study recommends an alternative transportation program that would provide public transportation to the handful of common destinations identified by the students who were interviewed.
“The phone survey served as background information to help prepare the I.V. master plan,” Goldstein said. “The county found it very useful.”
Tumlin said although the studies were both conducted in 2002, their findings are still pertinent because the population of I.V. has remained relatively the same.
“In some cases surveys maintain a long shelf life,” Tumlin said. “I haven’t seen any evidence that there have been dramatic changes in the demographics of the I.V. population over the past few years.”