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Sapere aude - dare to be wise
Friday, October 14, 2005
Read this, commit it to memory, tell everyone you know about it, and form ad hoc committees to bring it to the attention of people who you do not know
Posted 8:17 AM by Karl Born
In creating a parking policy to promote frustration and limit the overall benefit to those subject to it, the objective should be to promote inefficiency and unreliability, and whenever possible, unfairness. By permitting students who have easy access to many equally convenient parking options to displace and divert law students from the only lot within a five minute walk of the IU School of Law, the current IUPUI campus parking policy meets these goals with little difficulty.

Assuming, however, that a frustrating and unbeneficial parking arrangement is not what we really want, the current system should be fixed by creating a new class of parking tags for law students, and by reserving enough space for holders of these permits in the lot immediately to the west of the law school.

To do this would cause the limited number of parking spaces near the law school to be used more efficiently, because these spaces are more valuable (and the alternatives more inconvenient) to law students than to any other students parking on the IUPUI campus. For those unfamiliar with the geography of the relevant part of the campus (assuming that the parking situation in the northwest corner is irrelevant, since those working and taking classes in that area would not normally consider using the lot by the law school), there several clusters of lots on campus, and some of them form a rough circle around many of the buildings used by IUPUI students. The IU law school is outside of that "circle," in the far southeast corner of the campus. While IUPUI students using buildings inside the circle face a walk of a similar distance to each of the lots forming the circle, a law student’s walk to and from these same lots varies greatly.

The result is that the spaces closest to the law school are more valuable to law students than to anyone else. Though individual IUPUI students inside the circle may prefer certain lots to others, their next-best parking options are likely to be nearly as convenient as their best, and as a result, the parking spaces in the lot by the law school are not uniquely convenient to them. (There is an exception—after seeing the lines of cars parked by 7:50 each morning on the far north and west ends of the disputed lot, I have to assume that there are at least some people in the Informatics and Communications Technology Complex and the Science Building, of which both are near the disputed lot, who arrive early daily and expect to be able to park there. Presumably, they do this to avoid crossing Michigan Street. If the lot were reserved, they would no longer be able to park there, but it does not appear that they would be significantly inconvenienced if the lot were to be reserved to law students. Only Michigan Street separates these two buildings from several lots to their north -- the science building is even connected by a "skyway" to a parking garage. It is, of course, possible for law students to walk to and from these same lots, when space there is available, but what logic is there in asking law students to walk a distance, often through rain, heat, or cold, and to then cross a street in order to save others the inconvenience of walking across the street alone? If efficiency, or maximizing the benefit to people on this campus overall, is one of the goals in forming a parking policy, then it is hard to see the logic in asking one group of people to bear a greater burden for no reason other than to spare a different group of people a smaller burden.)

For law students, these spaces are significantly more convenient than any others. From the lot to the west of the law school (or the half E lot to the northwest, which fills as quickly as the lot to the west), it takes one or two minutes to walk from the car to the building. Once those lots have filled, as they do before 8:30 every morning, the second-best option is to walk to the lots north of Michigan Street. Including the delay at the stoplight, it usually takes more than five minutes to walk from these lots to the law school. These lots, when I have used them, were still open late in the morning, but if a law student were not to find space available there during the day, the third-best option, to the far west of the law school, is about twice as far away as the second-best.

Law students' efforts to deal with the shortage of parking show how valuable those parking spaces are. Some of us arrive hours before our first class just to park near the building, and avoid leaving during the day in order to keep the parking spaces once we have them. Others risk fines by parking illegally. Throughout the day, cars can be seen circling the lot, waiting for spaces to open. We would not resort to this if these spaces were not uniquely valuable to us.

To whatever extent reserving space by the law school would actually inconvenience IUPUI students, they are better positioned to bear this burden. As I explained above, other lots are similarly distant from most of the buildings that the average IUPUI student uses. Even those who only go to buildings near the edge of the circle face a shorter average walk to each lot than a law student who cannot find a space in the lot by the law school, and can make much of that walk through a series of connected buildings, avoiding heat, cold, and rain. Also, considering that undergraduate students may use several different buildings in different parts of the campus, the likely cost of providing adequate parking near each of their destinations makes it easier to justify forcing them to walk; it is justified because nothing can be done about it (and because it is in the nature of college students to walk across campus).

For the inconvenience endured by law students under the current arrangement, however, there is no such inherent necessity and no such justification. Law students go, every day, to a single building in the corner of the campus. Law students, in a normal day, do not go to any other part of the campus. Because we have only one destination, a single lot is all that we need, and because this lot already exists and can be reserved at little cost to others, it cannot be argued that reserving it would be prohibitively expensive, unworkable, or difficult. There is no advantage to continuing to use an inferior, inefficient arrangement, and there is no excuse for settling for a defective status quo in order to spare others a short walk from their comparative abundance of nearby parking.

Because I expect irrelevant arguments to be made in response to this post, I want to point out a few things in advance:
#1: Reserving the lot by the law school would not transfer net parking space to law students at the expense of others. Under the current arrangement, many law students find themselves scattered across the campus. However, this does not prevent them from displacing IUPUI students, who cannot, of course, use spaces that law students already occupy. The only difference would be that the spaces we occupy would be near our building, and that the spaces we would otherwise have used in other lots would be available to all E permit users.
#2: IUPUI students may also have parking problems, but the fact that others have to live with difficulties similar to our own should not prevent parking policies from being improved where possible. If their parking problems were worse than ours, and if our solution would have a bigger impact on them than on us, then these facts might be persuasive, but the opposite is true.
#3: If the distances from even the most distant lots are too short to be worth writing about, then there should be no question that the lot by the law school should be reserved -- every lot that is "close enough" to the law school is even closer to another building, so the students using those buildings should have no need to park by the law school. (Of course, since some of them do park by the law school, I doubt that they would agree that those lots are "close enough," since they have chosen to avoid an even shorter walk than we face. If those lots are not close enough for the students in buildings closest to them, then they are not close enough for us.)

The conclusion is simple and clear: law students have fewer suitable parking options than most students on this campus, and the spaces in the lot by the law school are more valuable to us than they are to anyone else. For this reason, space from the lot by the law school should be reserved for law students.

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