Solving Poly’s parking problem: drive less, bike more?

When you are running late to class, struggling to find a parking spot at Cal Poly can be the difference of making it to class on time, or running in 10 minutes late. With only 6,000 parking spots to fulfill the needs of the 19,000 students and 2,700 faculty members, Cal Poly struggles to provide enough parking.

Perhaps this isn’t a problem, but a strategical plan to encourage students to drive less, and bike more.

Photo by Latir Keiows | Wikimedia | Creative Commons

In a study conducted by Carlos Balsas, who is a part of the Department of Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning at University of Massachusetts, he found that schools have different strategies in place to discourage car use.

Many of them include having limited parking available which forces students to bike or use public transportation. They also strictly enforce the parking spaces available.

What does this mean for Cal Poly?

According to a Mustang News article, 62 percent of the revenue from parking citations goes toward paying for the San Luis Obispo bus contract—all students get free bus rides around the city.

Photo by The Photographer | Wikimedia | Creative Commons

Encouraging students and faculty to walk and bike is positive, but Cal Poly will struggle to make it a safe area for them to do so if more and more people take up biking, Cal Poly City and Regional Planning Professor William Riggs says. Rather than adding additional bike lanes or further limiting parking, his thoughts are different:

The campus needs to be closed off from traffic—the idea that you can drive through the campus needs to go away.

Closing off the campus from cars shrinks the amount of greenhouse gasses being released by cars. Currently, 51 percent of greenhouse gases come from vehicular traffic on campus. Excluding cars from campus would make it a much more bike-friendly campus. Without cars driving around campus, the leftover space can be used for something else, Riggs says.

It creates an opportunity to really rethink these places on campus, they can become lawns, picnic places, food truck places or new buildings. —William Riggs

Cal Poly is expanding and the school must expand with it. By 2035 the school is expecting to have 25,000 students, Cal Poly’s Academic for Enrollment says.

Balsas also found that at UC Santa Barbara, approximately 14,000 students bike to school. At UC Davis, there are between 15,000 to 18,000 bikes on the campus every day.

At Davis, there are very few areas to drive cars around campus, leading to 47 percent of students biking. Davis also has bike highways, making getting around campus on a bike fast and easy.

Other campuses also have programs that give students money to buy a bike to eliminate the price barrier for getting a bike. According to the New York Times, the University of New England and Ripon College give free bikes to freshmen who don’t bring their cars to campus.

Similar ideas were suggested to Cal Poly administration, but it is difficult to find funding Riggs says. Despite the difficulties, he says:

It will get worse in the future if we don’t do anything about it. I would say that the time is now.

Featured photo by Skeeze| Pixabay | Public Domain



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