On campus: More students, fewer cars
CHAMPAIGN — As a newcomer to Champaign, Mark Goldich of Chicago brought his car to the University of Illinois so he could take off whenever he felt like it.
"I didn't want to feel I was stuck in central Illinois," said the first-year law student.
Standing in line for a permit outside the campus parking department earlier this week, Goldich represents a declining number of students bringing cars to campus.
Over the last five years, the university has sold 1,000 fewer student parking permits, according to figures from the parking department.
The UI issued 2,245 student parking permits during the fiscal year ending June 30, 2014, down from 3,250 in 2010. During that period, the student body has grown, from 41,918 students during the 2009-10 school year to 43,398 in 2013-14.
Parking permits issued by the city of Champaign for the university district, which encompasses Campustown, are also down, as are permits for west Urbana, the neighborhood adjacent to campus, according to both cities.
"There are a lot of theories" for the decline in students bringing cars to campus, said Stacey DeLorenzo, transportation demand management coordinator for the UI.
Among them: younger people do not seek their driver's licenses as soon as they turn 16, but instead wait several years until they're upperclassman.
"We also know that there is a slight trend toward biking more. We have been getting requests for additional bike parking" on campus, she said.
If they don't bike to get around, some students opt to ride the bus. Some check out one of the vehicles available through Zipcar, the car-sharing program, for a fee. Some also drive and park in one of the shuttle lots near State Farm Center or off University Avenue, then bike throughout the day on campus.
The factors behind whether a student brings a car to campus can change every year. Those factors can include the recession, gas prices, more sustainable options (bikes, Zipcars, buses), who enrolls and who has the ability to bring a car to campus, said Michelle Wahl, director of parking at the UI.
"There has definitely been a big push, and this is not just through the university, but throughout the community, for people to be more active and seek alternative forms of transportation," DeLorenzo said.
The move toward alternative transportation also is in line with what city and university planners have been aiming for for years — to reduce the number of cars in the core of campus.
Unlike at some other campuses, all UI students, including freshmen, are allowed to bring cars to college. There are approximately 16,000 parking spaces. Most of the parking permits on campus are issued for faculty and staff; generally, the number is around 8,500, Wahl said.
Prices for the student parking permit have ticked higher over the years — from $540 in 2010-11 to $660. The price tag for a shuttle permit has remained steady — at $127.
For those who do have cars, it tends to be out of necessity, said UI junior Ben Riley from Peoria.
"I have to drive for work. If I didn't, I'd probably find ways to go home," he said.
Cars on campus
Student parking permits sold (by fiscal year)
Source: University of Illinois
City of Champaign university district parking permit sales
*-sold to date; sales close 1 month prior to end of academic year
Source: City of Champaign
Urbana residential parking permits
Source: City of Urbana