By Marcos Brakenridge


There is a common issue that every student and professor is dealing with when arriving to college. This issue seems simple, yet it’s highly complex: the parking lot.

People are saying that universities should invest more in parking lots to justify the number of students and faculty arriving with cars – who are getting earlier every day to find a good parking spot close to their classes or places where they need to go. Sometimes, they do not even find a place, so they end up parking in the street. This is a reality not just in universities, but in every other restaurant, mall or public places where people regularly visit.

Overpopulation is affecting more and more countries every year. Population is increasing at a very high rate, but the amount of land remains the same. Are all these people supposed to have a car and the right to park in a spot? Absolutely not.

THE PROBLEM IS NOT THE PARKING LOTS

We fail in recognizing the root of this problem: people driving cars while there are limited spaces on the roads to drive decently.

The solution to this problem is not simply adding more parking lots, upgraded parking lots, or underground parking. Even though the solution might sound tough and people might not want to accept it, they will have to learn in a forced way at some point in a near future.

A comparison of what 50 pedestrians look like and how much space they occupy when walking, when riding a bike, when taking a bus, and when each have their own car
A very clear comparison of how much space pedestrians occupy when taking public and healthier forms of transportation than when each decide to travel by car.

The solution is to teach students and faculty to take the bus, ride a bicycle, take the train, walk, or use any other similar transportation option that does not take too much space on the road. This way we can both have clearer roads and more space for public buses to travel more efficiently in these crowded cities.

I am not saying to avoid cars, or to not buy your dream car or anything related. What I am saying, however, is to start using your car just for essential trips, like a road trip, health urgency or to drive old people. If you do the numbers, you can see the difference from another perspective. A bus can fit almost 30 people, but when you imagine this 30 people in 30 different cars, then they can take half of a football stadium.

It’s all about learning to distinguish your essential trips from your non-essential ones. If you imagine the 30,000 students from an average university in the USA having a car, then there is no stadium parking lot that can fit them adequately in the university to then be able to walk 5 minutes to get to class. Whenever you go to a stadium and you park your car, it takes even more than 15 minutes to get to the entrance, this is because of the parking space that needs to be big enough to justify the number of people attending a live game. Rather than looking at the situation from another perspective, college students would rather complain and talk nonsense about universities having to spend money to increase their parking spaces. The problem is not about the way universities spend their budget, but about the efficiency and effectiveness of public transportation. 

TIME MANAGEMENT IS KEY TO A HEALTHIER LIFE

College students need to start learning how to better manage their time. They should realize that they should wake up earlier, have a healthy breakfast, and head to campus in an efficient transportation method. And when classes finish, go back home by the same means. When students hear about these habits or daily lifestyle, they tend to blame to universities for not having enough space for parking close to their classes.

The only two ways we can see people re-adapting their transportation habits are by either forced government intervention or the future forcing us to deal with the problem. Just imagine if the 8 billion people in this world have a car. There is simply not enough physical space that can suffice such demand.

There is no way we can continue enjoying the privilege to routinely take the car. I know this might be tough to accept but if we realize this before the roads collapse, then we will start winning this war. We cannot win this war by simply waiting for the government to take action or until others decide to stop using their cars.

HOW TO TURN THIS SITUATION AROUND

Start with simple steps, by setting weekly goals. If you drive your car 14 times in a week, start that week by reducing it to 13 – taking the bus or riding a bicycle that last ride. By doing this you will encourage your friends and family to take the same first step and will soon be influencing an entire society. The younger generations will grow up imitating such actions. If not, these kids are going to be the ones who suffer the real overpopulation problem with a noisy and disorganized city if we do not teach them on the new ways to live in a world better for everyone.

A graphic comparison detailing how the costs of personal transportation go drastically down when taking a bike and public transportation
What would you do with the extra cash you would’ve saved by taking other forms of transportation?

This picture illustrates the difference between driving a car and riding a bicycle. Besides looking at what we spend, we can look at it from another angle. Due to the lack of time, some of us fail to exercise on a daily basis. If we consider riding the bicycle to college or to our jobs instead of taking our car, I can tell you that you are no longer needing an exercise in the day. Without realizing, you are optimizing your time, since you achieved your goal of the day: that was study/work and at the same time you trained without even realizing. The time you were thinking to exercise after college or job is also no longer needed. In this free time you just earned, you can enjoy another hobby of yours. The benefits of this habit are simply marvelous.  

In the picture you can see the cost of driving a car and the cost of riding a bicycle in a year. Did you stop to think what you can do with the extra $11,000 right now? Probably spending on a down payment for your house, saving money for that trip you always dreamed, or simply enjoying the extra money with your loved ones. There are uncountable things you can do with this huge amount of money.

Something that universities in the USA may want to consider is using these images to raise awareness and reveal to college students the huge impact this simple habit brings to their lives. Besides from better roads, optimized space, and a healthier environment, these college students would have more money to enjoy on bars, restaurants, dinners, cinema and other million things they can do.

Rather than complaining about limited parking lots, college students should complain about the price of a bicycle. If this message can spread successfully throughout campus, I see no reason why people should keep using their cars in campus – the numbers are strong enough to convince them. The message should emphasize how their wellbeing improves and their budget increase.

THE GREAT WINNER FROM THIS? THE ENVIRONMENT

Our environment will be the most benefited from this new habit, since the pollution and other chemicals that cars spread are very toxic. Awareness of the benefits will spread across all US universities who will capitalize upon the impact for their recruitment campaigns. This new habit will greatly benefit universities’ public image and reputation, which will lead other countries to imitate such strategy. As a result, we will leave a better world for everyone – especially to the younger generations.  

A graphical representation between the speed, practicality, economics, and ecological impact of taking a car vs. riding a bike
Which method of transportation is more economic and eco-friendly?

A Personal Justification

I have chosen to openly discuss this issue because of a main theme: “A better world for everyone”. The problems that the world is facing are there to show us that we need to change. Change in what way? In a more efficient way.

The world’s overwhelming issues demands urgent solutions. There is no room for doubts and hesitancy, we must take action as early as possible, otherwise the world will collapse, and there is no turning back. Taking the first step is crucial for any change of habits we seek to see – and that starts with each one of us.

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