It’s a common complaint at NAIT – not enough parking. If you’ve ever needed to drive to campus, I’m sure you’ve experienced the frustration I felt over the past week. Day lots full, metered parking full, even side streets – full. Not a parking spot to be seen, unless you want to take a bulldozer and push together the cars that leave half a car worth of space between them.
Now I normally take advantage of the U-Pass to get to NAIT, it’s already paid for and it’s far cheaper than gas, parking or the potential for a car accident driving during rush hour. Except for last week, when I needed to drive to school almost every single day, either for my night classes or because at some point during the day I needed to drive across the city faster than the bus could get me there. For the most part, I did alright – finding a parking spot in F lot right after someone leaves or getting there early enough in the morning.
I could complain that $32 for parking for four days is a bit much on a student budget but the real kicker was Friday. I wasn’t coming to NAIT early in the morning, I only needed to arrive at around 10 a.m. and as it turns out, around 10 a.m. there is no parking on campus. I drove around for 45 minutes looking for a spot before I decided I didn’t really feel like studying on campus that day. Luckily I had no classes to get to but it highlights a very common problem for NAIT students.
It’s always been evident that parking has been limited at NAIT. The lines for parking passes at the beginning of the year are longer than ever and I’m sure if you pulled the records for bylaw tickets issued for Kingsway Shopping Centre’s parking lot, you’d see an increase in students parking illegally across the street. With no indication of NAIT increasing the availability of parking on campus – the new Centre for Applied Technology (CAT) will only add 200 underground stalls – and NAIT continuing to grow, it’s becoming even more difficult to commute to NAIT in your own vehicle.
Sure, we could utilize the new Metro LRT line, which admittedly does a great job connecting NAIT with students coming from Edmonton’s south side. Bus service has also been increasing to the institution, as some of the city’s major routes are being reviewed to increase efficiency – read: faster and more frequent. These changes don’t really help when you need to get to campus in 15 minutes, though or if you’ve got too many things to carry with you in one trip on the bus.
The biggest question, however, is why does parking have to be an issue on campus? We’re in one of the lowest density areas of the city – we certainly can’t compare our parking situation to MacEwan or the University of Alberta, which both face space limitations on all sides. We have the empty Blatchford lands right next to us, Kingsway Garden Mall to the south, and the remains of a small industrial park to the north before the Yellowhead. Now, of course there are restrictions on parking in these areas – the City of Edmonton has cut off most parking along the edge of the Blatchford lands immediately next to the NAIT campus, including shutting off access to parking NAIT students used to be able to use. Kingsway has always restricted parking to NAIT students and all other adjoining areas have been attempting to preserve parking for themselves, both industrial and residential.
Of course, as an institution, NAIT wants to build a strong relationship with local stakeholders – good community relationships are key to building a thriving campus and positive brand image. However, this struggle for parking is making it increasingly difficult for NAIT students to get to classes on campus. There was once a time that students could park along 103 Street among the empty aircraft hangars and parking lots – perhaps it’s time for the City to give us back our parking.