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Parking pinch needs solution

While the Belmont community may have different opinions on anything from faith, politics or music, there is one thing that unites most students, faculty and staff: They are indignant about the lack of campus parking.

Drive into any parking area at Belmont at certain times, and you are in for a nightmare. If you get back to campus too late at night, your car joins a line of others as drivers roam the parking lot hoping miraculously for an open spot that others have missed. If you get in during peak class times, 15-minute wait times in the Curb Garage become ideal and the walk from the Belmont Heights overflow lot gets a little more doable.

A look down the road, however, seems to suggest the parking problem is not likely to improve. Vision 2015, the university’s five-year operating plan, calls for even more growth; new buildings with underground parking garages on campus can handle the influx of students, but not much more. If any effective change is to happen with this issue, that change must likely consist more of policy than additional parking spots. With this in mind, what might be the best policy Belmont can adopt is already in place just a few blocks away at Vanderbilt: banning freshmen who live on campus from registering cars for on-campus parking.

Despite the potential rift a policy like this might create with incoming students, the chance that parking could substantially improve would help the school’s standing with the students who need spots the most: commuters and those with off-campus internships and jobs.

There would be some obvious logistical issues with this proposal, but not as many as some critics might expect. While this campus is not as self-contained as Vanderbilt, Belmont has a manageable level of off-campus accessibility they don’t. Freshmen would have to learn the local area quickly, but there are such varied communities near campus that it wouldn’t be a major issue. Within only 20 minutes walking distance of campus, students can get to grocery stores, parks, and enough coffee shops to caffeinate people for a lifetime. This would allow students to really and positively connect with a community in ways students with cars may not take the opportunity to do.

When students also have to get farther off-campus other transportation options are easily available. Get a bike (or rent one at no cost at the Beaman) and all of those 20-minute walking distances are cut in half. Try the expanding bus system for free—swipe your ID and Belmont pays the bill. It’s an efficient-enough way to get downtown and connect to other parts of Nashville. Or freshmen can do what so many students have done before them by finding a ride or working out a time to get where you’re going with friends. Take it from someone who has walked, biked, bused, and driven himself and others around town during his time in Nashville. These options may not be ideal, but they work better than you think and are more beneficial than you expect. Plus, this would force the Belmont community to find something different to talk about, like what’s in the new issue of the campus newspaper or something.

Vision editor Brian Wilson is a junior journalism major.

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