Since 2006, the University of Florida has worked to become more environmentally responsible: programs like the one-less car program and the Gator Gears Bike program have all been launched to make a more sustainable campus. But the coming faculty parking garage, slated to start construction in the next year, is at odds with the sustainability initiatives UF has championed.
The proposed faculty parking garage outside McCarty Hall would be a five- or six-story structure with approximately 600 parking spots. The garage’s tentative budget is $11 million, which is made up by multiplying the proposed $18,000 cost per spot times the total number of spots, said Craig Hill, UF’s assistant vice president of business affairs. All of this will be paid for by the student body, said UF Director of Transportation and Parking Services Scott Foxx, specifically by increasing the price of student parking decals.
According to Ruth Steiner, a transportation specialist in UF’s Department of Urban and Regional Planning, there is a disconnect between UF’s current sustainability programs, such as the one-less car program and the faculty bike share program, and this new plan to build a core-campus parking garage.
“It sends a mixed message,” Steiner said.
A “mixed message” is putting it mildly — the garage reveals a double standard. It forces students to find alternative modes of transportation to campus under the banner of sustainability while still building a six-story parking garage for faculty and staff that would encourage more car usage.
But Steiner said the discrepancy is a practical one.
“Having faculty fight for parking is not so good for morale,” Steiner said.
But what about the students who work full-time while getting their degree? Or the students who need to drop off children before class? Or the students who live in Ocala, or High Springs? Not only does the parking garage preclude these students, the parking decal cost hikes will hit them hardest. Students already struggle to pay the steep $160 for an all-year, park-and-ride decal. Sophomore acting major, Orlando Mendez, 19, didn’t renew his decal this year, as a result of the high cost.
“They’re adopting Trump-like tactics,” Mendez said. “It’s an abuse of power.”
Despite the push for students to adopt sustainable transportation, Matthew Williams, director of UF’s office of sustainability and energy integration, said having everyone ride a bike or bus to campus is not realistic.
“Campus can barely handle traffic now. Imagine if another 2,000 spots were added,” Fox said.
The garage itself is being positioned as a zero-sum solution to all the parking that has been lost through recent construction, Fox added. By zero-sum, Fox means that the garage would neither harm the university, nor help it, as it is just putting back lost parking.
Despite the discrepancies between students and faculty, UF is attempting to construct the garage in a sustainable way. However, no specifics as to what types of environmentally friendly technology have been decided yet, Fox said.
Ultimately, as campus continues to grow — check out UF’s campus master plan for more info — more conflicts will arise between embracing sustainability and catering to the faculty and staff’s need for parking. Even though it is clear that alternative transportation is not practical for everyone, the expectation is that students will wholly shoulder the task of sustainability.
At the end of the day, sustainability is a worthy cause, but it should be a cause for everyone. UF cannot have it both ways.