The Arizona Desert Lamp

Don’t go green – go Orange.

Posted in Campus, Culture by Evan Lisull on 25 August 2009


So, Parking & Transportation loves them some sustainability – goes down real smooth a tall glass of Budweiser. Yet a non-editorial editorial from the Star included this somewhat astonishing tidbit:

The university has 16,767 parking spaces in around [sic] the main campus and an additional 1,515 at the Health Sciences Center. The total comes to nearly one space for every two workers and students.

With this many spots, surely the green PTS would have a policy of maintaining the current number of spots, if not reducing them and turning old lots into People’s Gardens. As ABOR made clear last fall, however, this was not the case:

FLAGSTAFF – The Arizona Board of Regents unanimously approved the 2010-12 capital improvement plans for the state’s universities Friday, including the University of Arizona’s request to spend $30 million on a new parking structure.

While overall spots dropped (the Wildcat link is broken for now), would it have so horrible to use the $30 million elsewhere and – horror beyond horrors! – allow the student/employee per spot ratio rise to three? Or four?

In striving for sustainability, PTS has implemented, among other things, a new Hertz rental program. Judging by their Twitter feed, PTS is really, really excited about it, as they should be – it’s a great option for a good number of students, at a more affordable rate than seemed possible. Yet the program, for all its merits, fails entirely to address the largest group of car-using students – commuters.

The commuter problem is compounded at the UA by several factors. The campus is relatively small and enclosed, resulting in less property that directly abuts campus. Further, the campus is cordoned off by heavy traffic roads, further dividing students. Tucson itself is a sprawling city in comparison to others, and as a result houses are even further away than they might have been elsewhere. And yes, walking or biking in the Tucson heat sucks, dry though it may be.

The CatTran currently only provides two basic services: rides to garages, and rides around campus. Curiously enough, neither of these really cuts down on emissions – the former adds bus emissions to the emissions from the cars that drove to the garages, while the latter provides for routes that are generally walkable (if unpleasant). As a result, the vast majority of CatTran rides are underutilized.

The Orange line stands as a notable exception. Yes, its ultimate destination are parking lots on Ft. Lowell, but along the way the route has several spots along Mountain. These stops often include bus shelters. Unlike its peers, the Orange Line appeals directly to students in the neighborhood who use the bus primarily as a way to get to campus.

The CatTran system is the implement through commuters can find a genuine alternative to driving everyday. Students who feel uneasy about using the SunTran rarely feel the same way about the CatTran. Routes to garages and lots could be rerouted in the style of the Orange Line, passing through and stopping in student neighborhoods.

How to fund such a program? Start by ending the SunTran subsidy, and using the money for the UA’s own transit. Get rid of greenwashing gimmicks like “bio-diesel golf carts.” Reduce the funds allocated to SafeRide, in proportion to the reduction in services required as a result. Rather than simply selling spots by zone, host live auctions for spots, increasing both the optimality of spot allocation and funds received. One could even sell off off the entire PTS piecemeal, using some of the funds for a stand-alone system. In fact, you could really do it up and actually sell CatTran passes to off-campus students – although I freely admit to not knowing what such a pass would even cost. CatTran buses could be chartered – as a tour bus for visiting groups, and as a party bus for Greek and non-Greek life.

The list goes on – ideas, after all, are easy. Unfortunately, PTS’s latest innovation for the shuttle is the Green Line, which essentially encircles the north end of Campus.

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