Demand for student parking spots appears to be on the upswing. For the first time in recent memory, Western University's Parking and Visitor Services sold out of student parking passes this September.
For 1,800 student parking spaces, the university sold 2,510 parking passes to students before sales were suspended. There is clearly significant student demand for parking at Western.
With that said, Western doesn't need to build more parking spots smack dab in the middle of campus. If the campus master plan is any indication, Western plans to focus on becoming a more pedestrian- and bike-friendly university in future years.
Other campuses are also moving in this direction, and it's a good thing — reducing car traffic will create opportunities for more green space, make Western safer and reduce the university's carbon footprint. As Western's campus plan points out, investments in cycling and walking infrastructure, more ride-matching and carpooling and more reliable public transit will all decrease the number of single-occupant vehicles at school.
But until then, some students' primary mode of transportation to and from campus is a car; London's current public transit system likely contributes to this. London Transit Commission can make getting to Western unnecessarily time-consuming — if you're a student living in neighbourhoods like Byron or Westmount, getting to class can often take an hour or more. While London's bus rapid transit plan may help, it's not set to be operational until 2022.
In the short-term, the student-parking problem needs to be addressed. One quick fix would be to repurpose a lot in another zone as student parking. Down the line, there are opportunities for more compact parking and more parking on the perimeter. As the master plan states, multi-level parking structures and underground parking could free up space on campus while there's room for at least one more surface lot to be developed behind Springett.
The other issue at play is that even during peak capacity two weeks ago, there were still about 100 empty student parking spaces. This suggests students are having trouble finding them — no one wants to start their day cruising through lot after lot looking for a spot. Currently, Parking and Visitor Services is working on an app that would monitor capacity and let users know when lots are full. This is a project worth being expedited.
The campus master plan suggests Western has a parking plan, but its unclear when students can expect to see any changes. Right now, Western should acknowledge there's a student-parking problem and work with students to come up with a short-term solution.