Letter to the Editor: The CSU parking struggle is fake

This letter is in response to a recent opinion article regarding the campus parking situation

by Nate Lull, senior Urban Affairs student studying Regional Planning.

Let me start with this: I am a commuter student, and I typically drive to campus more than I take public transportation. That might make me a bad urban planning student… but oh well. 

However, one common gripe I hear about CSU’s campus is that there is “limited parking” or “parking madness.” No doubt, we have all had our troubles with the parking office. However, Cleveland State has seven parking garages accessible to students and visitors. Combined with the 18 surface parking lots and ample street parking on Payne and Chester, parking on campus is a breeze.

This map demonstrates how CSU’s campus layout already allows for ample space for cars and parking. There is no shortage of available places to park for commuter students. Photo courtesy of CSU Parking Services

This is especially true when compared to schools like The University of New York, which is much denser and has 35,000 more students. I realize the living situations of students in New York City and Cleveland are very different, because in NYC, very few students are driving to school. CSU should strive for similar density around and on campus- we are still in a city, after all. 

Parking Day is an international planning holiday dedicated to repurposing space for vehicles into space for people. CSU’s APA Chapter hosted an on campus event which was attended by many throughout the day. Photo courtesy of Nate Lull

As a member of CSU’s chapter of the American Planning Association, we recently did an event in the small lot in front of the Music & Communications Building. It was an urban planning holiday known as Parking Day around the world. The point of the event is to show how much space idle vehicles take up, and how space can be repurposed into being useful — serving the needs of a community (in this case students and faculty). We borrowed games from Campus District CDC and had great maps, like this one, showing the excess of parking in our city. The response we received was overwhelmingly positive. Almost all feedback received showed that students want places to enjoy, relax, or work outside of our lovely common area behind the Student Center. 

What the parking area in front of the Music Building looked like before and after the event. Photo courtesy of Nate Lull

One common argument is that parking should be free. If you’re an urban planning student, you know this couldn’t be further from the truth. Almost every parking analysis study has indicated that a parking lot/garage is the least productive use of land. When we want density and walkability, the highest and best use of land is never parking. In a city that can feel like a giant parking lot, we should ask for more green space and less grey space. Cleveland State’s campus is a ten-minute walk from Public Square, the most iconic and valuable land in Cleveland.

Want to guess what sat directly parallel to it for decades? A giant swath of parking lots (Sherwin Williams, we see you). While we could all argue endlessly about how the parking permit process needs to be simplified (it does), or how it is expensive to park— there is a reason for it. There are other alternatives to driving to campus, as every student has an unlimited-use RTA pass, which is automatically added to your semester charges. 

Parking minimums are another battle for another day, but they mandate that certain uses have certain amounts of parking, sometimes off-street. Cleveland’s downtown has not had parking minimums in a very long time, but parking lots are still in luxurious excess. Recent studies show that parking rules even drive up the price of rent. If the goal of CSU’s administration is to have more students live on campus, the need for a car to access campus will also decrease. Those garages and surface lots will become expendable. 

So, in closing, we should rethink parking at CSU. Let’s get smarter about our land use on campus. We should remove excessive parking spaces and dedicate space in our garages to bike and scooter parking. We should get rid of surface lots and turn it into a valuable green space to be enjoyed by all. By increasing green space and removing parking, we are setting the stage for a more dense and sustainable future at CSU.

Author: Cauldron Guest Contributor

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