The Spring Quarter is approaching and many classes will finally return to being fully in-person. With consideration to UCR’s historical reputation as a commuter school, this provides Highlanders with ample opportunity to reflect on the UCR parking and transportation experience and discuss what to look forward to next quarter. 

Some students have shared positive feedback with finding parking these past quarters of online/hybrid classes and have found that the struggle for parking has not been as prevalent as previous years. “My experience with UCR parking this quarter has been great and I have not struggled to find parking,” commented Carlos Ramos, a third-year mechanical engineering major. But Ramos noted, “However, if next quarter becomes fully physical, then I expect things to change for the worse,” which is a shared concern for the upcoming quarter.

Parking has constantly been scrutinized on the UCR campus due to it being limited in space and many students often struggle to find good parking in a reasonable amount of time. UCR Transportation and Parking Services (TAPS) has made ongoing efforts to remedy these concerns and reduce parking issues dealt with by undergraduates. Recent developments by TAPS include the construction of Parking Structure 1 located in Lot 13, that began this quarter, and pricing reductions and refunds on permits during this winter quarter of 2022. Students can expect to witness more construction on campus with the new Student Health and Counseling Center, which TAPS has reported will vacate 60 spaces in Lot 21. 

Undergraduates have limited options when choosing a lot to park in, as the most commonly bought GOLD permit only grants access to Lots 26, 30, 32 and 50. Some students may have also purchased the recently created GOLD PLUS pass that also grants access to the new parking structure. But these lots are unfortunately far from many students’ classes. Third-year business administration major, Caleb Faigin, voiced his disappointment with parking availability explaining, “I find it frustrating that students only have limited access to lots other than 30 around campus. It would make sense to allow students to park around the different areas around campus instead of having to walk all the way across for a class.” 

Students have also shared concerns of the pricing and availability of parking permits. Faigin expressed,  “I also find parking permits to be expensive and pointless. If I am a student paying tuition and fees, why is a parking permit not included?” Another UCR student shared, “I don’t like that we can only get one permit as I live and work on campus but I can’t get a permit to park near my job.” Some Highlanders have also shared their frustrations with the availability of the GOLD PLUS pass in previous quarters and how quickly they sell out, leaving few options. 

Solving this problem has seen some creativity from Highlanders. Fourth-year English major Fatema Shalabi detailed her commuter experience, providing an example of what many students must resort to in order to avoid the hassle. “I commute to campus and park at the Muslim Student Association parking lot to avoid dealing with the hectic scramble to find parking on campus.”  Others have resorted to parking in nearby areas such as in front of their friends houses, or more commonly in the UV and GrandMarc parking spaces. But even these solutions present their own obstacles. Shalabi explained, “It’s usually about a 15-20 minute walk, depending on where my class is. It can be kind of a hassle sometimes, like if it’s raining or if it’s really hot, but it’s much cheaper and less stressful. so I think what I do is definitely more convenient for me.”

Another solution in the future may come in the form of a mobile app that students may utilize. UCR alum, Bharat Rai has recently launched Pick Up N’ Park to help combat the challenges students have been facing with parking on campus. Rai, a grad of the class of 2020, gave more details of the app in an interview with the Highlander and hoped students could use it as a utility to get from point A to point B and share information. “Pick Up N’ Park is a mobile rideshare application for UCR students to help find parking and carpooling on campus.” Both features of the app, the parking feature, where students arriving can earn a parking spot by providing a ride for a departing student, and the carpooling feature, which aids students in accessing carpool options, aim to reduce the congestion commuters face as described by Rai. The service is provided free of charge for students.

Inspiration for the app came from parking issues dealt with by students in previous years. Rai explained, “Parking was terrible, Lot 30 was overflowing. On average, it took 30 minutes to find a spot.” Rai developed the app concept, after seeing a line of students in Lot 30 exchanging parking spots for rides to spots.  

Rai explained how he saw a disconnect between TAPS and Highlanders that was especially increased by the COVID-19 pandemic that led to a hectic In-person transition. “There is an information disconnect and uncertainty as to where to park. The transition being tough is a constant theme that reflects a lot of hurdles and challenges with getting engaged with the campus, faculty, and student life. At an individual level, students want to explore but there’s so much uncertainty.” Many students are unaware of the many rules, regulations and information that is provided by TAPS. 

Rai hopes that going into next quarter, students are able to be better informed and integrated with student life on campus and hopes that the improvements to parking and commuting will allow for students to increase their engagement with the campus. “This makes coming to UCR a more enjoyable experience. People start looking forward to coming to campus and reduce the challenges and hurdles.”