A cure for the parking nightmare at SDSU

by Randy Wilde

Artwork courtesy of Staff Artist Omar Rodriguez
Artwork courtesy of Staff Artist Omar Rodriguez

In case you don’t have to deal with the rage that comes with parking at San Diego State, then know your fellow Aztecs do. Steel sharks can often be sighted careening up and down the aisles, hungry and willing to forsake any shred of dignity in this parking frenzy.

Anyone who drives to school can recall a host of hellish mornings and afternoons spent in the bowels of SDSU’s overcrowded parking structures. But what can we do? People need to get to campus and park their cars. With the influx of thousands of transfer students this semester, most of whom likely commute, in addition more than 30,000 students enrolled as of fall, it’s no wonder our lots are crowded. The problem is often exacerbated by the fact that every single student apparently arrives and leaves campus at the exact same time.

It would only seem logical that SDSU needs more parking facilities. Right? Wrong. This simple solution is only a temporary crutch that would allow the lines of cars to grow rather than address the root causes of our overcrowded parking structures.

Just glancing at a campus map, it’s unbelievable how much valuable space is occupied by parking lots and structures. Building even more would be a step in the wrong direction. I for one would rather see our campus beautified with recreation spaces, expanded classrooms or additional housing rather than be marred with even more concrete slabs. Better use of space would help students feel they can live in an exciting and beautiful campus community. Parking structures aren’t free either. With less state funding, we could end up with another student-funded project like Modern Space: “Parking Space.”

But what about the parking problem? If you trace the roots of our parking woes, it comes down to students having to commute. So we must address why students drive to school instead of living within walking or biking distance.

Just walk a block from campus and if you didn’t know better you would have no idea you were around the corner from SDSU. There is no college neighborhood. Most students who are able to move to the young adult havens by the beach, where there is more youthful energy and a stronger sense of community, do so. Why don’t we have that around campus? Students shouldn’t have to move to Pacific Beach to find a community they enjoy living in.

I don’t have a car. It can be inconvenient in this neighborhood and I end up relying on friends with cars far too often. What I want is a neighborhood that is walking and biking friendly so students can feel comfortable not having a car on campus.

We should work toward creating a campus community and improving the surrounding neighborhood to be more convenient for students. Unfortunately, this is no easy task. We need more affordable housing targeted at upper-division students, more grocery stores within walking distance — or at least better campus markets with more basic produce — and more bike accessibility on campus to make the surrounding area more pedestrian-friendly. In the meantime, we can implement measures such as additional discounts for student public transit passes and carpool-only parking areas to ease congestion.

But these measures can’t just be willed into existence. The investment will require student demand for these facilities, which we need students to live around campus for. If students find it easier to move to Pacific Beach where a young, energetic neighborhood already exists, it may be hard to get things started. Sounds a bit like a chicken and egg situation, but we can make steps to get the ball rolling.

Requiring out-of-area freshmen to live on campus is one way to decrease commuting, but incentives and improved facilities would work better. Working on the parking crisis and making campus more convenient for those without vehicles is the first step to break the cycle, followed by expanding nearby housing, dining and shopping options.

While campus parking and the character of our surrounding neighborhood may seem like separate issues, they are deeply connected. How we handle our parking congestion will help define the identity of SDSU and our community’s future. What legacy will we leave for the next generation of Aztecs — the same old crowded cement-slab parking structures, or a more convenient, livable campus community and neighborhood?

—Randy Wilde is an international security and conflict resolution junior.

— The views expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Daily Aztec.