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If CU-Boulder bans student parking on campus, where will all the cars go?

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Word that the University of Colorado at Boulder is thinking about banning student parking on campus wasn't entirely news to Kurt Matthews, manager of parking services for the City of Boulder. He says conversations between CU and city officials about related topics are ongoing. But that doesn't mean a plan is in place to deal with the repercussions of this possible move. When asked where all those extra cars would go, Matthews says, "If you want the absolute truth, I have no clue."

If students weren't allowed to park on campus, many of them would likely walk, bike or take public transportation to school, which would have obvious environmental advantages. Trouble is, these options might be impractical for a considerable percentage of enrollees. How many, Matthews isn't sure -- but potential problems loom under any circumstances. "If you're up and around campus, there are no available parking spaces for whoever gets displaced," he says. "There just aren't any.

"The struggle we have is balancing the needs of the public against the needs of the people who live on the street," he goes on. For instance, "there are a lot of places built on the Hill that are high-density, and they already have more residents than places for them to park. If there would be even more demand for those spaces, well, I have no idea what the tipping point would be."

A number of possible solutions have surfaced in what Matthews refers to as "brainstorming sessions, where we throw things against the wall to see what will stick," including new permitting programs (although any such scheme would be more restrictive, not less) and the creation of satellite parking facilities. "This could be an entrepreneurial opportunity for someone who has vacant land," he says. "They could allow students to park there and then pay for a service to shuttle them back and forth." In addition, "the city owns three parking lots on the Hill that use a permit system. A person can buy a permit to park in those lots. I don't know if students would want to do that, or if some of them already do, but that's something to consider."

Whatever the case, Matthews confirms that "there have been no direct conversations specific to banning all students parking on campus. We did have a discussion not too long ago about possibly banning freshman parking, and we have general discussions all the time. But there have been no formal conversations about, 'If we do this, what are the consequences?'"

Such a chat is a must, especially in light of ripple effects. One example cited by Matthews: "If more people start taking the bus in, you'll have increased parking in Louisville, in Westminster and other places, too, because the students have a free bus pass."

For that reason, Matthews doubts any kind of parking prohibition is imminent. "It'd be easy to say 'Ban it,' but we can't do that if there's no place to put the cars. Otherwise, it'll be first-come, first-served for whatever may be available on the curb."

In other words, chaos.

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