The parking crisis on campus has for a long time occupied discourses among students and the teaching staff.
Having been driving to campus since two or three years ago, some of us agree: this academic year we face the most intense competition for parking slots.
Arriving at campus at 1015, you would be already ‘too late’.
Some friends actually skipped class because they couldn’t find spaces for their vehicles.
True, students have alternative solutions.
- They could park in UniVillage, forgiving the fact that they have paid the university an expensive fee every semester only to not be offered a proper parking slot.
- Also, they could get into the wasteland of disastrous roadway beside the Sports Complex, at risk of damaging their tires and bumpers.
- They could drive around the campus for two hours to search for a suddenly empty slot, wasting petrol and missing a bit of their classes.
- The early bird gets the worm: please come to campus earlier, you get a slot for sure.
- Last, they could—the relatively mature policy, I claim—take the Nottingham bus. Saving petrol, saving money, saving unnecessary frustration.
Things seem fine?
But these five solutions probably won’t address the parking crisis.
The issue takes a root, deeper than just a humanist ‘competition’ between students (or ‘customers’, to be more accurate) to park their cars.
In other words, it won’t settle at the superficial levels, instantiated by the five easy alternatives above.
- Eventually UniVillage won’t have enough space for the booming numbers too. Plus, most students pay Nottingham for education, not UniVillage for parking.
- Same goes to the wasteland near the Sports Complex.
- The third solution of waiting and wasting is an act of enforced self-disadvantage.
- Why be on campus earlier when your class starts at 1PM or when you have important errands to run before class?
- Buses must increase in number and in time slots.
Just like solving all problems in life, we must identify and confront the real causes.
For the parking crisis, I don’t really know for sure what the root cause is.
But we (especially those who hold decision-making positions) have to at least start thinking about it.
Root one: over-population of vehicles?
If the parking crisis on our campus actually stems from an explosion of private cars in contemporary life, the solution would be less abstract and more clear-cut.
For example, the lack of parking slots also happens, daily, and perhaps more intensely, in the Kajang Town.
It also happens during peak hours, but less seriously, at various shopping malls.
Similar symptoms of vehicle over-population happen on the road often en route to Kuala Lumpur and else.
Thus, refining student numbers won’t truly touch this root cause, if it indeed is the one.
The Nottingham bus service, in this case, is a very powerful answer.
But, beside saving petrol and money, it must now try to save time and physical energy for people.
The bus service must intensify, diversify, and achieve a greater flexibility. To schedule more frequently. To attend to more locations where people have needs.
If the Nottingham bus service allows for an equivalent freedom of mobility, which self-driving allows, a sufficiently penetrating public transportation will always be the most sustainable solution.
Root two: fruit of capital greed?
One can also suspect, from the primary observation, an increase in the number of students.
More students possibly mean more vehicles—a direct, logical derivation.
But look further into the equation: has the university accepted more and more students without considering the consequences of their profit-making agenda?
To introduce an educational virtue ethics: a being deserves the opportunity of advanced education, only because education is central to character-building.
Neoliberal careerism would see otherwise: everyone deserves a tertiary education, and everyone is ‘entitled’ to a tertiary education with a price, because everyone requires a tertiary education for a ‘future career’.
Hence the mushrooming of university ‘customers’.
Yet it seems clear that people who want an entrepreneurial, clerical, stereotypically money-driven life require not so much a four-year moulding by a tertiary academic institution than a series of three-month intensive workshops by specific business entities, i.e. ‘Internship’.
As I have written before, universities, since ever, should have been meant for intellectual work and cultural creation. And there’s nothing ‘elitist’ about this argument. Since people want specific things in life, they only require specific steps of training towards their niche goals.
The critical question comes: How many of the students, or how many bags of money, received by this university truly go into the development of a culturally rigorous intellectual environment for specific groups who strive for the production of honest academic work?
The failure to recognise the true purpose of universities (by the universities themselves, ironically) results in the crisis of campus parking (alongside other ramifications).
Are we witnessing the self-punching contradiction of the profit motive—or as Marx would say, the dialectics of capital greed?
First, to campus administration, please recognise this long-term problem, at least. Let’s not resort to random, superficial solutions, some of which may resemble the temporary alternatives as listed above.
And please don’t ask us to provide solutions purely because we direct critical attention to the parking crisis. We aren’t the ones who control the capital resources. We aren’t the ones who have a whole campus of (science, economics, geography, and political science) experts available for policy consultation.
Second, to the Students’ Association (SA), please take into account this issue and produce policy responses.
It could be that there are simply too many cars (solution: enhancing the already plausible bus service).
But it could also be that there are too many university ‘customers’ (solution: just blindly increasing parking slots, or adhering to a real educational ‘virtue ethics’).
And it definitely could be other factors.
Poor spatial design?
Lack of political will?
Somebody capable enough must start searching for and solving them.
Special thanks to Shaleen Surendra and Samudhra Sendhil for their reviews of an early draft of this article.
Written by Teoh Sing Fei
Featured image from Wired.com.
Views expressed in this article are those of the author and they do not necessarily represent the position of UNMC IGNITE.