Illustration by Chelsea Lovejoy

Parking Wars

Parking spaces are in demand, but university and city officials want to change parking habits around campus

Parking at the University of Oregon campus area is a common source of grumbling for faculty, staff and students. The price of parking is a frequent complaint, and availability is another problem. 

A permit doesn’t guarantee a spot, so frustrated drivers circling the campus looking for a place to store their cars isn’t an unusual sight. Officials know parking spaces are in high demand, but they also want to change parking habits around campus. 

Kathryn Kuttis, a public relations instructor at the UO’s School of Journalism and Communication, says she has had conversations about parking with some of her students throughout her time working at the UO. 

In 2015, some of these conversations prompted a Twitter hashtag used by students in one of her classes — #IPayForItButThey — meant to spur conversation about some of the issues with parking on campus.

Some of the examples of Tweets using this hashtag: “#IPayForItButThey towed my car anyways,” “#IPayForItButThey make money off of poor college kids. Not chill,” and, from Kuttis, “#IPayForItButThey give all the spots to softball.” 

The consensus from the social media hashtag project seemed to be an overall frustration with a lack of communication between staff and students and the parking department.

“Students who pay for parking passes want to know where to find information about available spaces, unexpected closures due to events and construction and the ticket appeal process,” Kuttis says over email. “Importantly, many of the students in my class were not asking for more parking (we all enjoy a walkable campus) but rather clarity around what parking is available and what they had paid for with their parking pass.”

The UO has been working to change the campus’ parking problems. 

David Reesor, who took over what was formally called the Parking and Transportation Department, worked to change the name to Transportation Services earlier this year.

“We were trying to get a more holistic mission for the department,” Reesor says. “Parking is and will always be an important piece, but there are a lot of other things to consider.”

Reesor says that Transportation Services is working to implement new ideas that make transportation to campus easily accessible to everyone. 

One of these new ideas is a park-and-ride service that started this school year. Reesor says this currently free service for faculty, staff and students allows them to park at Autzen Stadium, which has a surplus of parking most days of the year, and take a bus or bike over to campus.

“This is a good opportunity to push us all as a campus community to try other travel options and see how they work,” Reesor says.

Reesor cites a desire for a more environmentally friendly campus as a reason the Transportation Services department wants to look for more transportation options for UO-adjacent people.

“Long-term, I would like the university to be one of the leaders in our community for innovative, sustainable transportation while meeting our transportation needs,” he says.

He does acknowledge that in a car-centric world, finding new options for transportation can be difficult for people, especially those who live far away.

“Not everybody has a good option to bike or walk or take the bus depending on where they live,” Reesor says. “It’s something we have to be thoughtful about how we implement it over time.”

Anne Brown is an assistant professor at the UO’s School of Planning, Public Policy and Management. She says that she understands concerns from staff and students, particularly relating to transportation equity and people’s varying needs.

“I always worry about who may be excluded due to certain transportation policies. In this case, I think that it’s imperative that access for disabled travelers (parking/loading spaces) is protected regardless of what other parking policies are pursued,” Brown says in an email.

She also says she thinks that there could be a system in place to reduce the cost of parking passes while still looking for and prioritizing other forms of transportation for most people.

Jeff Petry, director of the city of Eugene’s Parking Services, says that he’s interested in working with the UO to create fresh transportation ideas. He mentions the LTD EmGo, a new, free sustainable ride service that functions in and around downtown Eugene as an extension of the bus system.

Petry says that EmGo is working, in part, to avoid the need for so much downtown parking. He adds that he thinks this could be something implemented in the campus area to supplement other shuttle services around UO.

The UO and the city of Eugene are looking forward in their parking-related endeavors, toward more sustainable methods of transportation and away from focusing on the personal vehicle. When a city’s parking director doesn’t even drive to work, maybe the rest of us don’t need to, either.

“The city of Eugene’s parking director has biked to work for 14 years,” Petry says of himself. “If any place is going to succeed in finding alternative means of transportation, it’s Eugene.” ν