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Volume 68, Issue 92, February 10, 2003


Science could fund UH parking

Jonathan Bruder
Opinion Columnist

Pavement. At UH, we love it -- or at least, we act like it. We gripe and moan about it, spend time with it and treat it with the scorn and necessity of a long-disillusioned marriage. From what I hear on campus, we canit get enough of the stuff. Where else would we park?

UH has acres of paved surface, and it isnit uncommon to see vehicles parked on sidewalks, in thoroughfares or in the middle of the street. Sometimes all of the paved spaces are filled up, and people start parking their sport utility vehicles on the grass.

None, not students, faculty or staff, are satisfied with the situation.

The parking problem has plagued the administration for years, with little obvious recourse. The crowned heads of E. Cullen say time and again that no money is available for additional parking. They are reluctant to raise already-ridiculous parking fees, fully aware that many students cannot afford to park in inlying lots with the current fee schedule.

Students, struggling to get to class on time against work schedules and Houstonis notorious freeway construction, are more likely to park in violation of University regulations than to be half an hour late to a class on the other side of campus. When they receive a ticket for what they have done, they fly into an uproar, stapling theses to the Presidentis door about practices that clearly prefer the well to do.

Can either of these groups be blamed? Hardly. The students have a right to reasonable parking. A graphic design student -- who already receives three hours of credit for six hours of class time -- must complete a 70-plus hour major and compete for one of nine slots just to fulfill his or her upper-level requirements.

This person should clearly not have to lug 20 pounds of paper a mile and a half to class after staying up all night with best friends Sharpie and Xacto. Nor should an administrator be expected to dip into dwindling resources to provide free parking to Eddy Expedition and the SUV studs.

The problem arose from an exponential growth in enrollment. In most ways, that growth has been positive. And unlike most services, parking can become more expensive in bulk. Solutions may not exist. I contend that we should find them. UH should undertake a massive foray into parking research.

I had a friend in a situation similar to the administrationis parking dilemma. She was in great pain; whereas the University must relieve parking lot strain, she desperately needed her wisdom teeth removed. As with UH, the development was ill-timed and unexpected.

She was under increasing financial stress before her teeth started keeping her awake at night. As a stroke of luck, she found a way to solve her problem and get paid<P> for doing so.

She subjected herself to medical research. She was put under anesthetic, the problematic teeth were removed by exceptional oral surgeons and she was given experimental medication, which had already gone through several courses of testing. As if the free treatment wasnit enough, they wrote her a check for two grand.

So this is the plan: UH foots the bill to research proposals for parking research grants. The practical expense of parking is enough to justify state-sponsored research, with the promise of happier parking lot patrons and less expensive upkeep. The grants will pay for equipment (including parking lots) to do the necessary research.

The logistics of parking are complex enough to require research in sociology, management, engineering, design, physics and materials science. The project would increase the research budget of most of the Universityis research-intensive departments.

The Houston business community would love better parking mechanisms, and would love to underwrite a project that improves its image with more than 34,000 young, impressionable minds.

Moreover, there are so many angles from which the problem can be approached. For example, envision a distributed network of radio tags that check in with a wireless network which uses information like class schedule and average supply carriage to assign spaces daily on a first-come, first-serve basis.

The system would know if a student was parked in violation of regulations, and could use existing network infrastructures like the rapidly expanding UH 802.11b wireless LAN. The system would have significant savings over the current "drive-around-and-find-iem" approach to issuing tickets. The ticket could be sent to the e-mail address supplied to all UH community members, reducing paper waste.

Instead of a technological approach, a consideration of the organic patterns that arise in monthly parking trends could be arranged. Smarter parking lot layout might be the answer.

There are clear advantages to testing new products and services; students, faculty and staff are aware of these advantages. Helping the State of Texas save money at a time when funding is in short supply might make everyone a little happier with the pavement.

And if you havenit checked out Pavementis Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain<P>, you should. Have a great week.

Bruder, a junior graphic communication and physics major, can be reached at


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