Parking on campus has been an issue at MSU as the student population grows. The MSU Transportation Master Plan, showcased in the SUB on March 9, offered potential suggestions to help alleviate parking stresses.
A large component of the master plan involves incentivizing modes of travel other than cars, such as bikes. With models of more bike-oriented cities such as Boulder, Colorado, planners want to see MSU move in that direction with formalized bike lanes, compact urban roundabouts and protected intersections that make biking safe and desirable.
One of the goals is to protect existing parking facility investments, while not creating a need for more. Though some universities don’t allow freshmen to bring cars, Kristen Blackler, MSU’s sustainability director, made it clear that’s not in the cards for the plan: “we don’t want to restrict what people are able to do. What we’re trying to do is give them the option to try — in a safe and fun manner — other ways of getting to and from class, commuting around Bozeman.”
Ideas for lowering the amount of vehicles on campus include preferential carpool parking—similar to what Bridger Bowl does — coupons for busses or even working with local car rental companies to lower the rental age to 19. Freshman would be able to rent a car for a weekend and leave their car at home for the year.
Blackler said an aim of the master plan is to lead people to try something new and create new habits. She said a student might find, as she did, “that [they] absolutely love biking … and [they] arrive to class with a big smile on [their] face instead of stressed out from trying to fight for a parking spot.”
Those hosting the event understood it is sometimes talking about change is easier than its implementation.
“It’s a little bit of an uphill battle,” Shane Forsythe, an engineer with Robert Peccia and Associates, said. “Every family [in Montana] has three cars and two of them get driven everyday.”
Cars are very much part of the western ideas of freedom and individualism, Forsythe said. Such cultural norms pose challenges to implementing creative ideas to lower the use of vehicles.
“It’s hard proving that these systems actually work,” Forsythe said of those put forth in the master plan. “There’s no way to know that they work until you institute them.”