Between unpredictable buses, the infuriating parking pass lottery, and the limited number of ParkMobile spaces available around campus, the current transportation situation makes everyone’s lives harder.
It’s only going to get worse if UC Santa Cruz carries out its expansion plan while not providing adequate on-campus or local housing.
With a plan to increase enrollment to 28,000 by 2040, admission at UCSC won’t be slowing down anytime soon. Congestion is only exacerbated by the influx of students commuting to campus. As buses crowd, more people opt to drive or carpool, which slows down the bus system and perpetuates the original issue.
More students are being forced off campus after not receiving on-campus housing offers. Many of these students are signing leases in areas like Seabright, Capitola, Scotts Valley, and Salinas, where public transportation is not a reliable option for their commute.
These students often rely on personal vehicles to get to campus, which quickly fill the designated campus lots and overflow onto residential streets.
The 2021 Long Range Development Plan (LRDP) details significant changes that aim to accommodate the increased campus population, ranging from myriad new residential and academic developments to the construction of multiple new roadways and pedestrian paths. Some of the residential developments are specifically aimed towards bringing upperclassmen back on campus, an enticing prospect for many struggling in the off-campus housing market.
However, the actual numbers reveal a contradiction. The plan notes that 8,500 new beds will be built for students, but if you add that number to the current number of beds — 9,338 — you get 17,838. This falls 10,000 beds short compared to the projected increase of 28,000 additional students admitted by 2040 alone. That difference must be recouped by the already burdened Santa Cruz rental market.
Though the university aims to improve students’ ability to enter and exit campus through the construction of several “mobility hubs” including bus stops, bike parking, and easy access to the academic core, they stress that minimal new parking will be built.
The LRDP’s proposal is idealistic. Its promise that “proposed on-campus student and employee housing will significantly reduce the need for additional commuter parking” ignores the fact that the current system cannot handle the proportion of commuter students, which will stay essentially the same throughout the implementation and completion of the plan.
Without significant accommodations for student commuters, the traffic woes that we currently face will only worsen..
The university’s current path harms continuing students by disrupting their daily lives and sometimes endangering their lives with poor traffic management. This mismanagement tarnishes the Santa Cruz community’s impression of UCSC as a whole by pushing the university’s transportation problems onto the city.
While on paper UCSC promises a campus designed to better accommodate bikes, pedestrians, and public transportation, it does little to substantively address the causes of its current transportation issues. Students who come from off campus must pay for parking permits or ParkMobile meters, and that’s if they can even find a place to park. If the university wants to continue serving as a commuter campus, it is their responsibility to plan with commuters in mind.
Cheerily telling students to walk and bike instead of using the bus system waves off accessibility concerns, and overlooks the needs of long distance commuter students who rely on personal transportation. This callous deflection of responsibility onto those who drive does nothing to fix the transportation issues — it just shames commuters. For students coming from off campus, there must be a comfortable amount of parking available to prevent illegal parking both on campus and in the city. But improved public transit will only partially help; the continual traffic squeeze our campus experiences is a result of eternally increasing enrollment numbers that currently project to add nearly 10,000 bodies to our campus.
UC Santa Cruz cannot create an inclusive and welcoming campus environment while ignoring the issues that off-campus and commuter students face in the pursuit of higher education at our university.