by Shiv Palit
As a student with a car here at Davidson, one of the things I appreciate the most is the low parking prices. Unlike the high prices at other colleges, Davidson offers two very generous parking options: $50 per year for general parking, and $25 per year for limited parking (Ramsay and Baker). This gives students the opportunity to have a car on-campus without having to worry about covering a massive cost. With that being said, some students do use their cars more often than others, and it can be quite inconvenient to walk to the back of Ramsay when they weren’t able to find a closer spot. In a situation like this, one might ask for more parking options than what we offer.
Something that Davidson can consider would be to offer more variety when it comes to the parking pricing options. Rather than just the general and limited parking, we could introduce differentiated prices for the various parts of campus. For example, Chapman University, in California, auctions off their most valued parking lots. They start the bidding process at a base price, and after every bid the base price falls and the next best lot is offered. This gives students that are frequent drivers the chance to secure a more convenient spot. Additionally, it gives them the opportunity to pay the price they are willing to. Students that use their car less, and therefore have less of a demand for a close parking spot, would pay the general parking price and still be able to have their car accessible.
Another system that many universities and public parking lots offer is the idea of having zones or sections that are priced differently based on their location. Similar to the auction process, this would give students the chance to obtain parking in areas more suitable for themselves. To put this system in the context of Davidson’s campus, lots such as Belk and Chidsey would be priced higher than others. Perhaps Patterson Court and Martin court lots would be priced the second highest, and lastly would be Ramsay and Baker, which would remain general parking for students who don’t feel the need to park close by. With this system in place, avid drivers who live in Watts would be able to assure themselves a parking spot in the Belk lot if they desired to. The issue is that the demand for parking lots such as Belk and Chidsey is much higher than the supply. However, if prices for these lots were raised, the demand for them would be limited to those who would utilize their vehicles more often.
While some might argue that systems such as these would create a system of privilege based on disposable incomes, I would disagree. Firstly, the idea is not much different from what Davidson already offers in terms of parking options; it would simply expand the existing system. Secondly, the price range for a preferred parking lot would not be high enough to prevent a student with a lower disposable income from purchasing the permit. Instead, it would target students based on the elasticity of their demand. Students in the more inelastic demand segment, frequent drivers, would purchase permits for the preferred parking zones. Following this logic, students in the more elastic demand segment, those who don’t use their car very often, would purchase general parking permits and still be able to have their car. Additionally, the students who would still prefer general parking will not be put at a great disadvantage, since our campus is fairly small, and they probably already park in Ramsay and Baker from time to time with the current system in place.
If Davidson were to reconstruct the parking system to offer more options, I believe it would make a large majority of the students with cars a lot happier. Students who use their car more frequently, and are therefore willing to pay the extra cost, will be able to enjoy closer parking, and those who are less-inclined to pay the extra cost will still be able to have an accessible car on-campus.