The misguided decision to convert Bobcat Trail into green space highlights the misconnection between student needs and university goals.
Bobcat Trail will be converted into green space as part of a redevelopment project, according to a March 6 University Star article. The road, which runs perpendicular to LBJ Drive and Edward Gary Street, will see a $5.4 million renovation that will include underground reconstruction and the creation of a mall area.
Michael Petty, director of facilities planning, design and construction, said in the article the Bobcat Trail conversion is part of President’s vision to change the university “from gray to green.”
Creating green space has been an ongoing effort since the adoption of the master plan, which outlines current and future campus projects and initiatives. Sustainability and environmental awareness are important, but this dedication has begun to undermine students’ needs and dig a hole in the university’s already-depleted wallet.
One of the most valuable parts of Bobcat Trail is the line of handicapped parking spaces behind Flowers Hall, which is convenient for students who need easy access to The Quad. The removal of these parking spaces seems disconnected with the Office of Disability Services’ efforts to improve accessibility around campus for those needing extra help. Taking away these spots will inconvenience some students and make navigation on a campus dominated by hills and stairs more difficult for those who need help the most.
The Master Plan’s commitment to green space has also diminished Parking Services’ reserves. Part of the initiative to maximize green space is to focus on parking garages instead of surface lots, which are cheaper to build and maintain but take up larger areas.
The university built the Speck Street Parking Garage in 2008, the Matthews Street Garage in 2009 and the Edward Gary Street Garage in 2011. Each parking garage requires taking on more debt services, and by the end of this fiscal year, Parking Services will owe more than $300,000. Administrators were forced to raise parking permit prices and cut services such as the interurban trams to Austin and San Antonio to reduce overall costs and pay for these garages.
Convenient spaces and revenue for Parking Services are valuable commodities. Administrators should have looked into opening up the parking spaces on Bobcat Trail to students for an elevated cost. It is likely many students would be willing to shell out significant funds to secure a parking spot on Bobcat Trail near the prime location of The Quad. That way, students would not be losing parking spots, and administrators could be making money off of spaces and permits instead of taking on another expensive construction project.
The Bobcat Trail renovation additionally symbolizes yet another construction project on campus. The construction will require digging up the road, which will undoubtedly disturb classes in Flowers, Academic Services Building North and South and the Education Building.
Environmental consciousness is important, but there are ways of achieving it that will not impact students and campus accessibility in such a negative way.