Background: In several articles appearing in the USM Free Press (Please see attached articles), USM Student Government and administrative officials have sought to gauge student attitudes toward parking on numerous occasions. Students have often voiced concerns about the shortage of parking, which translates into traffic congestion in both the parking garage and elsewhere. The problem from student's perspective concerns supply and the common proposed solution is more parking. Administrative officials, on the other hand, have advocated for alternative ways of transportation, whether it be walking, biking, or taking the bus. From an administrative perspective, as noted in the Free Press article from Oct. 20th, 2011, titled, "Students meet Wednesday to discuss commuter concerns", the parking problem is a demand problem and the solution is lowering demand via alternative transportation methods.
The Problem: The "parking problem" is best pictured in the context of the University of Southern Maine as a whole. As reported on the USM website by the Office of Public Affairs, USM currently has 9,385 students enrolled (both part-time and full-time). 1,185 of those students reside on the Gorham campus, which gives us a total of 8,200 commuter students. Broken down into percentages, 12.6% of students live on the Gorham campus while 87.4% are commuters.
In terms of the amount of parking provided on the Portland campus, students are provided with the parking garage, P-2, and P-3. The parking garage is where the vast majority of traffic congestion occurs with only 1,200 parking spaces. The amount of parking available in P-2 and P-3 is currently undetermined. In addition to student parking, there are also multiple parking lots for faculty and staff on both the Portland and Gorham campus. Another factor to consider is the usage of the parking garage for non-USM events often held in the Abromson Center and Hannaford Lecture Hall.
The "parking problem" taken into account with the number of commuter students and the supply of parking points toward more of a supply problem as opposed to a demand problem. However, since supply and demand, economically speaking, are closely interrelated, we cannot say that it is either a supply or a demand problem, but rather that it is both a supply and demand problem with a majority of the problem stemming from the supply side. This argument is based on the fact that ,on the Portland campus, approximately 2,000 parking spots are provided to a commuter population of 8,200 (Excluding the influx of students from the Gorham campus, which is alleviated slightly by the shuttle buses).
It would appear, via statements made by several officials in forums and meeting featured in the Free Press, that the solution is to lower the demand for parking by encouraging students to use alternative methods of transportation, i.e. walking, biking or the shuttle and Metro buses. However, this one-sided demand solution does not take into consideration those students who have to commute 15+ minutes from outside of Portland. The demand-side solution is only relevant to those students who take up residence near the Portland campus.
Possible Solutions:The "Parking Problem" must be fixed from both the supply-side and demand-side. Some possible solutions include working with the City of Portland to allow USM jurisdiction over Falmouth streets, which currently has both city meters and hour-restrictive parking on both sides of the street. USM could also seek jurisdiction over Dunham St. which lies between Woodbury Campus and Oakhurst Dairy. Other solutions include developing the empty lots near Glickman Library and Payson Smith. Some parking could also be made available on the front lawn of the Abromson Center. In closing, these options should be seriously considered alongside the demand-side solutions provided by USM administrative officials.
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