Our cars – saviours or stress machines?

For many people their car is their lifeline. It gets them from work, to university, to school; from social outings to the gym and back home for the weekend and it is an everyday luxury of our society that has come to be expected. Sure, public transport exists, but having a car allows you to determine your own schedule, independent of the external world. Of course, traffic, tolls and parking are external factors, but for the most part, you’re in control.

In fact, according to ABS in the last eight years, NSW alone has on average 62 cars per 100 people. (For more information on this and easy to read graphs please see the first section of Charting Transport’s blog at http://chartingtransport.com/2011/08/07/trends-in-car-ownership/) This majority of the population is centred slightly outside the major cities but one of the most common trips made is into the CBD. So what does this mean you ask?

Well think of it this way, put that in perspective for the University of New South Wales. With a total of over 50, 000 Students and staff at the university alone, that is 31 000 people who own a car, with most driving to university at least twice a week and some driving every day.

That’s a lot of people right? And that doesn’t even include people who work in other centres of employment around Randwick. So where do these thousands of people park?

Well PhD students, teachers and staff can purchase parking permits from the university for an annual fee. This allows them to park in certain restricted bays on campus, permitting they abide by the rules and exemptions of their permit. But what about the thousands of undergraduates who attend university? What are their options?

Battle it out for street parking or accept paid parking with a minimum of 4-6 hours it seems. For most university students, paying for 6 hours of parking per day, 4 days a week is an unaffordable luxury. So street parking it is, or so they hope.

There are a number of both timed and unrestricted parking spots in the residential streets of Randwick surrounding UNSW. They are somewhat filled by residents who possess their own local parking permits, but yes they do exist. One and two hour parking zones make up the streets closest to campus with the unrestricted spots being located around the back streets. Now of those thousands students, let’s assume half need to be at university for the entire day. A rough estimate here would still number in the thousands. They are forced to park in the back streets and often have to witness dozens of spots being taken up by cars which do not park to the edge of the curb. This in turn creates stress, parking mania even! Stressed uni students, who would have thought they exist right?!

Some people in fact give up trying to park and end up missing their destination altogether. This issue was identified in a survey conducted by IBM and discussed by Park It Here in September 2011, “In fact, over half of all drivers in 16 of the 20 cities surveyed reported that they have been frustrated enough that they gave up looking for a parking space” (Read the full discussion here) Now for university students and teachers alike, missing out on a parking spot as an excuse for missing class is likely to be as well received as, “my dog ate it after I missed the bus and my printer died.” Not well at all.

Can you see the carry on effects from a simple stress such as parking? The environment it creates is not a positive one.  It is a road rage environment. Therefore, please don’t think this too much of an existential leap, but helping to solve the parking problems around UNSW can quite likely help to boost morale amongst students and even assist in decreasing the number of motor vehicle incidents as it removes a totally unnecessary stress. Sure there will still be limited spots, but students, teachers and everyone else visiting campus can rest assured that the maximum number of spots are being utilized and there is not wasted space where their trusty car could be.

The introduction of marked parking bays and the awareness of the need to park properly is our way of fixing one small problem that can have huge carry on effects. By ridding the community of one unnecessary frustration we can begin to address bigger problems and maybe even consider the introduction of new parking areas for undergraduate students.

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