08 March 2004

Parking polemic persists

For years I thought that students who didn't turn up to my classes and later said: "I looked for parking for fifteen minutes and then went home", had a pretty lame excuse. These days I'm not so sure.

I remember with nostalgia the promise made by the then-senior DVC in the late 1980s when it was first proposed that staff should pay for parking and that never again would employees need to worry about finding an empty space. Any staff member can tell you that it is now nigh impossible to access parking between 09h30 and 12h30 without a prior extensive and time-consuming tour of the nooks and crannies of upper campus which, although occasionally interesting and even revelatory, tinges the rest of one's day with a lamentable brevity of temper.

May I offer a possible solution? While I am led to understand that bicycles, especially mountain bikes, which would be most appropriate, are hideously expensive, it may be possible to offer staff loans on cut-rate and less popular versions of this form of transport (such as penny-farthings, tricycles, etc).

In the case of the Jammie Shuttle one could think bigger; while in the case of smaller departments targeted for downsizing, tandems would probably suffice. The width of all existing parking bays could thereupon be drastically reduced, and the university proceed without further ado with its penchant for turning whatever parking spaces still remain into demolition and/or construction sites.

Speaking for myself, I thoroughly endorse Prof JM Coetzee's belief that the bicycle is the only non-harmful machine the Western world has ever known; and abjure Keats' unfortunate remark, made in 1819, that "the nothing of the day is a machine called the Velocipede". Hopefully, the support of our latest Nobel prize winner for the spirit of this proposal can be obtained, even though he has moved on. I am already confident that it lies well within the stipulations of Rhodes' Will. (see Perplexing Parking, Varsity, 13 March, 2003). We can also hope for the backing of many administrators from Bremner, as they would have less of an uphill distance to pedal.

Kelwyn Sole
Dept of English

Have you ever tried parking at the UCT Medical School? Not only are the prices per student bay astronomical, but you are relegated to the back of the Anatomy building (probably closer to Timbuktu). Who cares that these same students are expected to work from dawn till dusk (yeah right, midnight would probably be closer to the truth) and having to walk all the way to the Lung Centre in the middle of the night (with visibility a bare minimal) is probably considered exercise for the day. Who cares that they have to put life and limb at risk, it's all part of the learning experience. Tally-ho!

UCT is a place of learning, what boggles the mind is that it should be necessary to have "traffic officers" (oh, those stout defenders of parking bays) patrolling the bays slapping huge parking tickets (ranging anywhere between R100-R300) on cars whose owners can hardly afford to pay next month's tuition fees. The staff, who just happen to pay less for parking than the students (money tycoons that we are), are allowed to pay off their parking fees over the year while we have to dredge up what money we have left to pay, in cash, the required R378; or face the wrath of the "traffic officer". What you're left wondering is which coffers are enriched by the money; where exactly is the money going?

Not only is it infuriating to have to apply for a parking disk but to get an actual disk is like applying for British citizenship. By the time you do get one you wonder what all the hoopla was about. It would have made much more sense to walk (but we all know that "sense" doesn't grow on trees - more's the pity). Makes one wonder why you don't risk parking in Falmouth lane; admittedly security would be an issue but having parking tickets slapped onto your car is just detrimental to your financial feng shui.

A few years ago the previous vice-chancellor, Dr Ramphele, acknowledged the inequity of this system and granted a number of postgraduate students yellow and red bay status after the issue was raised with her. Officials at the traffic office are apparently amnesic of these events. It's unheard of now to even dare ask to have occupation of one of these spaces. Why are there SO many red bays (which are empty most of the time anyway) occupying the ground level of the Learning Centre, followed by an equal number of yellow bays (I've seen these empty as well), the visitors bays and THEN the student bays. I say, do away with the color co-ordination of the bays. Parking should be based on a first-come, first-served basis! If I come late, I have to take the parking that's left, regardless of whether or not I'm a professor!

Who decided that there had to be a hierarchy for parking! Don't we have enough discrimination going on in our lives that we have to be subjected to that as far as parking goes? What's next, limiting the amount of air we breathe and putting a disc on that as well?

All we ask is a little consideration. Please do away with the parking discrimination. Or, at the very least, decrease the parking fees and allow us, the students, to be allowed to pay off the lump sum; deduct it from our student accounts if you have to. At Stellenbosch University parking is free for both staff and students, why can't we expect the same?

Disgruntled medical student

Can nothing be done to prevent students who attend lectures on the upper campus from parking in the staff and student parking area above the Kramer Building on middle campus? I bet at least half the cars in this parking area belong to upper campus students, who don't have student parking discs. The mornings are especially bad.

Students, no matter whether attending lectures on the upper or middle campus, who use the middle campus parking areas park on red lines, on sidewalks, along the sides of the narrow roads at the north end of this parking area, in staff yellow bays, and on red lines along the sides of the Cross Campus road, coming in from Woolsack Drive. They sometimes park across the dividing line of demarcated bays instead of between the lines, thus effectively occupying TWO bays for one car!

The students don't seem to care that they are breaking the rules while also making it very difficult if not impossible for staff, who have to pay quite a lot this year for a yellow bay disc, to find a legitimate parking bay especially if they have to use their cars during office hours on university business. I have sometimes had to park along the road leading to and from Bremner Building and walk to Kramer, simply because there has been no space for cars legitimately displaying yellow bay discs anywhere nearer my place of work.

Please try to improve the situation. Thank you.

Elizabeth van Rijssen
Website Co-ordinator
Law Faculty

Response from the Department of Property and Services

UCT is currently in the process of developing a scheme to deal with the parking congestion on campus. This will include a park-and-ride option with free, secure parking, as well as an enhanced bus service to campus.

Unfortunately, given the space constraints on our campus, parking has to be controlled. Ultimately, when our new scheme is rolled out, we hope that more people will be persuaded that they do not need to bring their cars onto campus.

The bay system that the letter writer from the Medical School refers to is one that has been in place at UCT for many years. It is simply not practical to allow parking on a first-come, first-serve basis.

In our view, there is adequate parking for students in the vicinity of the Anatomy Building at the Medical School, even though this requires a relatively short walk to other buildings, a situation that is not unusual in an urban context.

In terms of security, we have upgraded the lighting and the area is fenced and access-controlled. Consequently, we are happy to report there have been no incidents of car theft in this area.

In response to Elizabeth van Rijssen's concerns, we must point out that we do not enforce the bay system until March 1, to allow people time to acquire their discs. As from this month, however, we will be taking action against those people who park illegally, which should alleviate the problem


We trust the decision to provide more transport options to commuters to UCT's campus will address Kelwyn Sole of the English department's concerns in due course.

Details will be published in the Monday Paper after consultations have been completed.

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