Ask students around campus and you're likely to get the same response — when it comes to parking, we need more of it.
“I think there should be more parking,” said Immanuel Portus, a sophomore film and television production major. “It just gets congested, and a lot of people visit the campus all the time, and they don’t want to park [off] campus.”
However, when it comes to issues like congestion, more parking might be the last thing we need. In fact, our campus would be better off having less parking.
An argument can be made that if we built more space for cars on campus, that would eliminate traffic jams. On the contrary, more parking would only intensify the congestion seen during big on-campus events, according to a concept called Braess’ paradox.
Braess' paradox describes how adding an extra link to a network (when the things using said network are able to choose their own route) can potentially reduce the performance of said network. In layman's terms, more roads can sometimes mean more traffic in already congested areas, as described by The New York Times.
The reason why this happens, as explained by CityLab, is simple: if you build more roads, more people want to use them and more traffic piles up. The same logic also applies to parking spots.
An analysis by Chris McCahill of the State Smart Transportation Initiative and three University of Connecticut scholars found that an increase in parking spaces per resident from 1960 to 1980 correlated with an increase in car use. That increase in car use will likely entail other changes in campus infrastructure to turn the University into a car-oriented school.
Maybe some students are already aware of Braess’ paradox and would subconsciously choose to use their car less often, but those students would be in the minority. Meanwhile, the majority of students would be happy to drive around on campus only to complain about even slower traffic.
It also goes without saying that more parking opportunities on campus will cause more pollution. When students have the option of driving their car from place to place, there’s no incentive to use greener transportation like a bike, skateboard or their feet for the same purpose.
Not only would we be emitting more carbon from burning gasoline, future students would be wasting resources when they buy new cars. The various processes that go into making rubber and metal for these cars lead to a huge carbon footprint on top of driving, as detailed by by Mike Berners-Lee and Duncan Clark in the Guardian.
And where would we make space for these new parking spots? The University would either have to pave over green areas like Sunken Garden, replacing a carbon sink with heat-absorbing asphalt, or demolish housing and force more five-person dorms. Given how much LMU invested in the new freshmen housing projects in East Quad, the former seems more likely.
All of these consequences would only come about if most of the student body was overtly pro-parking. Thankfully, the consensus on campus isn’t unanimous.
“I live off campus so I just have a lot of parking lots that I can park in. I think it’s pretty easy,” said Wilson Chatham, a sophomore engineering physics major.
I understand why someone might not be convinced that we need less parking on campus. If you need to transport a bunch of film or research equipment to off-site locations, green transport like buses or bikes might not be the best option.
But a large-scale push for more parking for individual vehicles isn’t just irresponsible in terms of the health of our campus; it would actively worsen whatever concerns students had in the first place.
The best solution for students is to embrace the resources on campus like the Cycling Lion and use your bike whenever you’re just traveling in the Westchester neighborhood. Only use your car when it’s absolutely unavoidable, and if you get to that point, be sure to carpool with some friends.
If students are going to lobby for changes in campus transportation options, let’s lobby for changes that really benefit our community.
This is the opinion of Cristobal Spielmann, a sophomore environmental science major from Brentwood, Tennessee. Tweet comments @LALoyolan or email email@example.com.