Enjoin WashU's New Parking Strategy

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Dear Dean Staudt and Vice Chancellor Carter,

My name is Michelle Mowry, and I am a JD/MSW in the Class of 2018. I am writing to express my concerns about and dissatisfaction with the new parking strategy that will be implemented over the next two years. As I’m sure you are aware, this new strategy has caused a significant amount of anxiety and stress for students, especially graduate students. While I recognize that the parking strategy is motivated by long-term goals of environmental sustainability and beautification, this plan fails to acknowledge the reality of sprawl, lack of access to public transportation and real safety concerns that accompany living in St. Louis. This plan also fails to pursue community-based initiatives to improve inflated housing prices in St. Louis and inadequate, unsafe public transportation.

First, this parking strategy fails to acknowledge the reality of sprawl and lack of access to public transportation in St. Louis. According to the most recent count, there are more than 7,000 graduate students at WashU, approximately half of the university’s population. Because there are no on-campus housing options available to graduate students, graduate students must commute to campus. This commute is often a significant distance because of inflated housing prices, especially in WashU’s immediate vicinity. Many graduate students live in areas without access to reliable public transportation, a reality that forces them to drive to classes every day. From the information that has been distributed, it does not appear that parking is guaranteed, a fact that is extremely disturbing given the exorbitant cost to attend WashU. Students now have to subvert their academic goals and needs to the practical reality that they may not be able to get to the university they pay so much to attend.

Second, this parking strategy fails to acknowledge the real safety concerns that accompany living in St. Louis. One of the purported solutions to the lack of available parking is for students to take public transportation. However, beyond the lack of access to public transportation, there are real safety concerns about taking public transportation. St. Louis is not a particularly safe city and consistently boasts one of the highest crime rates in the country. A significant amount of this crime occurs on MetroLink trains and platforms. Although specific data is not available, assaults, robberies and other crimes occur often in these areas and jeopardize student safety. These concerns are especially pertinent for students who will be forced to take public transportation if they are not selected for parking in the lottery or use the ParkSmart option. Although the ParkSmart option is an affordable parking option, the shuttles for Zone 5 only run until 10 p.m. When the shuttles are not running, students would be forced to take the MetroLink. Students should not be forced to sacrifice their safety merely because they cannot afford the $757 parking fee for on-campus parking.

Finally, this parking strategy fails to include any community-based initiatives to improve inflated housing prices and improve access to safe and reliable public transportation. Any university must fairly acknowledge the realities of the city in which it operates. The new parking strategy fails to do this because it is fails to consider the reasons behind the number of cars on campus: inflated housing prices, violent crime and unreliable public transportation. Rather than couple this strategy with community-based initiatives that would address these problems at their roots—such as providing affordable housing for graduate students and lobbying for expansion of the Metrolink and more extensive security—the university has chosen to allow these problems to persist.  

 The new parking strategy disproportionately impacts graduate students who cannot afford to live in the surrounding vicinity and who have no access to safe and reliable public transportation. I respectfully request that the new parking strategy be enjoined pending the inclusion of other community-based initiatives, such as investing in affordable housing for graduate students, expanding public transportation in the St. Louis area and improving the security of public transportation options.


Michelle Mowry

JD/MSW, Class of 2018

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