August 28, 2000

Parking: you think you've got it bad

Josh Renaud

College students and their automobiles just don't seem to get much sympathy these days. One would think that parking is a relatively easy problem to solve and manage, but somehow it continues to be a perennial irritation on campuses across the nation.

Only a week into the fall semester, UMSL students are already stewing over more parking fiascoes. The now-infamous "apply-on-the-outside" permits are being stolen right and left. Check out this week's "Campus Crimeline" on page 2 if you need proof. Sadly, even if you manage to protect your permit from theft, you've still been robbed. The parking permit price gouging really is outrageous.

But, things could be worse. For instance, a north county municipality and high school have pooled their efforts to crack down on teen drivers.

The high school in question has been cursed with a small parking lot throughout its existence. Every year, a privileged few students secure permits to park on the school lot. All their cruisin' classmates have to park elsewhere. Most of them choose to park on one of several residential streets near the school.

For years, residents have been kept from being able to park in front of their own homes if they make the mistake of leaving and then returning before school lets out. Up and down the streets the high school students park their cars anywhere they can get the vehicles to fit.

One day an ambulance and a fire truck responded to a resident's medical emergency. They couldn't get in immediately because there was no place to park. The time they lost may have made a dramatic impact on their efforts. Not long afterward the city fire marshal tried to resolve the situation by banning parked cars along one side of the street between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.

But this wasn't the worst of it. At 3 p.m. every weekday the quiet neighborhoods become noisy, dangerous drag strips. The hot-roddin' guys think it impresses their girlfriends when they tear away from the curb as fast they can and careen toward each other.

So, in response to residents' complaints, the city passed an ordinance banning non-residents from parking on streets near the school between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. They're able to run license plates through their computers and determine where the owner of a car lives.

Driving to school is no longer an option for many of the high schoolers. Instead they have been forced to resume riding the bus. Unfortunately for them, the school is planning to ban all student parking on its lot as soon as the state of Missouri increases the driving age to 18.

With that in mind, maybe parking at UMSL won't seem like such a bad deal. Maybe we commuters still have to pay enormous fees for permits, battle highway congestion daily, and find a lot with empty spaces, but at least big brother hasn't taken away our right to drive.

Yet, anyway.

This article was reprinted with permission from The Current.

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