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Tuesday, February 27, 2024

It's a common gripe at colleges across the country: Parking on campus is a nightmare. At the second largest university in the United States, we're no strangers to the parking tickets, the "who-stole-my-car" moments before the adjustment to roam towing and the hours of circling and stalking in parking lots before classes.

So when it was announced Friday that UF's Parking and Transportation Committee met to discuss the alternatives for the 118 parking spaces that will be lost when Hough Hall is completed, we were hoping for some innovative solutions.

But, of course, students came out with the short end of the stick.

The committee voted to transfer the car pool spots from east of Criser Hall to areas in front of Fletcher and Sledd halls - places normally reserved for students.

We're hoping once the proposal gets to Ed Poppel, UF's vice president of business affairs, he'll reconsider the implications of the move.

Not only will students lose already desperately needed spaces, but faculty who purchased car pool decals in keeping with the mission of a sustainable campus will be inconvenienced as well.

It is little to ask that employees carpool to campus to reduce traffic congestion, but it is a lot to ask for them to park in scattered locations across a four-mile campus because of poor institutional planning.

As the UF campus will only continue to expand to accommodate the masses of students who descend on it every day, it's important that officials carefully consider that transportation affects surrounding campus growth.

Take Hough Hall for example. The completion of a 59,000-square-foot building will do wonders for the College of Business Administration by making it more attractive to prospective students, but how will they get there when they are persuaded to enroll?This should not be an afterthought for UF.

It's time to start thinking outside the parking space lines.

At Ripon College, a small liberal arts college in Wisconsin, the administration has decided to encourage bike use for those raised in a car culture.

If incoming freshmen promise not to bring a car to campus for a full year, the college will give them a $400 thank-you: a new mountain bike, a helmet and a lock.

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Trustees and alumni donated about $60,000 to buy the 200 bicycles to give away to incoming freshmen to cover the price tag of the program.

Some might argue that this can't work on a campus the size of UF, where even the size of a classroom may hold more than 300 students. But though Ripon may be a small school, its transportation solution - which doesn't involve building more parking lots - should be taken seriously.

It would be easy for UF to team up with a sponsor to create a similar program. Even if only 1,000 freshmen agree to the incentive plan, that's a lot fewer cars on campus.

As the parking problem continues to get worse and enrollment continues to swell, other schools have taken more drastic measures.

Beginning last fall, the University of Miami decided that non-commuting freshmen would not be issued parking permits. The decision to do so freed up a whopping 600 parking spaces.

Maybe instead of playing musical parking spaces every time new construction is complete, UF could consider similar policy changes that would help prevent the problem from becoming even more unmanageable.

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