College Parking/Environmental Responsibility

The Provo-Student Alliance has recently received a fair amount of attention and press for its efforts to involve students in local activities.  While it’s genuinely exciting to see another organization getting students more involved, this particular group is wrong about the very idea it was founded to protect: student parking. 


Like many college towns, Provo has serious parking problems.  The streets are filled with student cars, which I know frustrates permanent residents.  Related to (or possibly stemming out of) this conflict, Provo city has recently pushed a plan to require permits for students to park immediately south of campus.


The goals of the students fighting for the right to park near campus are understandable, but also painfully near-sighted.  For one, simply maintaining the status quo will merely postpone inevitable conflict; students will continue to park in increasing numbers on the streets, while residents get angry and city leaders eye student pocket books.  This isn’t going to change, especially since BYU slowly increases its enrollment over time.  More importantly however, the Student-Provo Alliance is arguing in favor of an activity that is environmentally destructive and practically unnecessary.  Driving pollutes, and student cars are typically among the oldest and dirtiest on the road.  Accordingly, advocacy of student parking implies advocacy of student driving and, subsequently, of student polluting as well.  Though I doubt that many in the Provo-Student Alliance think of the issue in these terms, their agenda will cause lasting and harmful collateral damage to the environment by fighting the curtailment of a destructive activity.  Ultimately then, when considered in terms of environmental impact, the students are on the wrong side of the debate when they argue that their own convenience trumps greater responsibility to the environment.


While I suspect that the motivation behind the permit proposal was ill-conceived and largely an exercise in resentment directed against students, the ultimate result of the idea—fewer cars on the streets—is a desirable one.  If students are required to buy parking permits, fewer of them will be willing or able to park (though I’d like to see the plan altered to not blatantly favor rich students over poor ones).  In the short-term this will create frustration, late nights looking for parking, missed classes, and a multitude of other hardships for students.  Basically, it’ll be rough.  However, as current students begin to graduate and move on (and take their cars with them), the lack of parking will become simply one of many other considerations new students have to think about.  With no place to store cars, fewer students will be able to bring them in the first place.  More people will have to walk, bike, or use public transportation.  The city will have to adapt planning and zoning practices to a populace that can only travel a few miles, as opposed to one that drives everywhere.  With time (at least five or six years, though maybe as much as a generation), the hardships immediately following the permit plan will recede, having become merely growing pains during a time of change.      


If the Provo-Student Alliance really wants to help students, it might pause to consider what will be most beneficial to students in five, ten, or fifty years.  Unfortunately, driving isn’t that thing. In addition to the many wonderful things that this organization is now doing (things like voter registration drives), it should shift its focus toward reducing students’ need for driving.  For example, the Alliance could petition the city for mixed residential and commercial zoning that would allow students to work and play closer to where they live.  For it’s part, Provo city could explain their proposals in better terms that demonstrate a benefit to students as well as residents (in the end, the problem with this most recent plan wasn’t so much the idea itself as it was the fact that its branding left it reeking of prejudice).  If that happens it’s likely that both long-term residents and students alike will assume greater responsibility for their shared community and our environment.



Filed under community, commuting, driving, environment, pollution, Provo

4 responses to “College Parking/Environmental Responsibility

  1. Where does this put people like me, who don't live in Provo but like to visit my friends who live there, and need to drive to Provo in order to do so? If I have to have a permit to park anywhere south of campus, then I basically won't be allowed to go to Provo at all. I don't want to have to pay to visit my friends in Provo when I can visit my friends in other cities for free. This issue extends to basically everyone who would want to visit people living in the student areas of Provo. Doesn't seem that anyone bothered to think of that. And how would they know if a car without a permit belonged to a student, a resident, or a visitor?

  2. First, I know that my opinion isn't a popular. Basically, it require people (like both you and I) to sacrifice for long term environmental change. That's not easy.Also, while there may be many people in your situation, I think it also represents a small minority (people who live near enough to drive to visit students frequently but far enough that they can't get there any other way). In the end, I think that if the community is going to make a decision about policy, it has to be the decision that will benefit the most number of people. Unfortunately, that may mean that some people end up being left out or slighted. I think this is the case with any public policy, but hopefully decisions are made that minimize the negative impact on people. Also, in the end, driving is a destructive practice. I drive a fair amount myself and I'd be mad at laws that stopped me, but I'd also have to consider that those laws (however mal-intentioned) actually do accomplish some good. For you it would suck to not visit friends. However, if you chose not to do so because it was going to cost you that decision would actually benefit the environment. I'm not suggesting that everyone stop visiting friends or that the benefits of doing so don't outweigh the environmental impact, but in my opinion any law that discourages driving has to be considered seriously for what it will accomplish.I think the way that they were going to restrict the plan to students had mostly to do with where it went into effect. It was supposedly going to be only in the Joaquin neighborhood, so if you're friend lived outside of that area, you wouldn't be affected any way. Also, at least one incarnation of this plan was going to require permits only for overnight parking, which means that day visitors (as I assume you often are) wouldn't be affected. This also wouldn't impact visiting families significantly, because most (again, not all) of them stay in hotels/motels/etc that wouldn't require them to park on the street overnight anyway. Ultimately however, I agree with you that Provo City probably didn't consider the consequences to visitors as well as they should have (or at least they didn't publicize those considerations very well). In the end however, I think that this basically requires us to put up with a difficult situation. I live south of campus and this would directly affect me (in annoying ways), but I think that it's a long term issue. I also don't want to have to pay to park my car, but I think its an issue that is bigger than my personal feelings or activities.

  3. Totally off topic but…Why not do your fictional cafe on line!!! Make your own "cafe" site and everything and have Laura post all her amazing pic of her delicious eats, kinda like the link I put on our blog today. It could be Laura's blog, or whatever, just do it. That way when you do open your cafe someday so many people will already love it!That would be awesome, just sayin.

  4. Oh, and you don't even have to share recipes if you want to keep them secret, just share your experience making it… or something.

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