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Throwback Thursday: UCLA’s dire parking setup has been a problem for 30 years

(Daily Bruin archive)

By Ryan Wu

April 18, 2019 5:02 p.m.

UCLA has a parking problem.

UCLA is one of the largest universities in the nation, with over 40,000 students attending and more than 60% of those being commuters. Despite this, many students still report difficulties getting to classes, with some spending upwards of 90 minutes in search of a single spot to park on campus.

With consternation over parking brewing, UCLA students ought to remember that the school’s always had an issue providing enough spots for its student body.

In April 1990, UCLA students focused their ire on the demolition of Lot 32 to build graduate apartments, as well as on the construction of a new branch of what would eventually become the Ronald Reagan Medical Center. An article dated at the time argued that by building the new wing and hiring new employees to staff it, the administration was ignoring the needs of commuter students and generating new competition with students for parking spaces.

One particular grievance was the car pool system, where students who carpooled together while heading to campus could park in any of a series of allotted car pool spots. The article is dismissive towards the idea, suggesting that “a large portion of all preferred parking passes given to car pooling undergraduates are obtained using fraudulent information.”

Commuter students today may find uncomfortable parallels between the farces of 1990 and the inefficiencies of the current parking permit system, which allows students to purchase parking permits for a limited range of spaces while reserving much of the campus’s parking for faculty. These so-called “blue permit spaces” are often empty for much of the day, leaving students helpless as they’re turned away from open spaces.

It’s reached the point where some commuter students risk citation and park in the blue permit spaces anyways.

Also noteworthy are current complaints about the high costs of parking permits, many of which run at around $12 a day. As part of UCLA’s 1990 Long Range Development Plan, higher parking costs were proposed as a way of encouraging alternative methods of commuting to school. This does not appear to have helped the problem; in January of 2019, the LA Times reported record low ridership for the LA-wide Metro bus and rail services. That same month, LAX Flyaway reduced the number of hours it serviced Westwood due to low demand.

Of course, the UC Transportation administration has worked to alleviate this problem. In 2011, the Bruin Commuter Club was founded, offering discounted permits to students. UC administrators have also worked to construct more on-campus housing to help students stay close. These include developments inLot 15, the Margan Apartments and an unnamed development in the southwest part of campus.

But all of these efforts echo unsuccessful past attempts to alleviate the issue. The LRDP from 1990 specified increasing on-campus housing options as part of the proposed framework for opening up parking spaces for commuter students. Now, parking scarcity is still a problem, but the university is running out of space to build new housing.

In terms of potential solutions to the parking conundrum, the article is light on details, instead offering a vague call to action for commuters to air their concerns to the UCLA Capital Programs Department. Twenty-nine years later, an answer to the parking conundrum has yet to emerge.

Perhaps there isn’t an answer; space will always be limited in a city as cramped as LA. At the same time, in any educational institution, it’s terrible to say that students couldn’t make their classes because they were stuck trying to find a parking space.

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Ryan Wu
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