Car ownership is a poor choice for students

Alexander Chase

As UT’s student body has grown, the demand for parking on campus has not kept pace. There are 15,858 parking spots on campus, 7,110 of which are for students. That roughly measures to one parking spot for every seven students. Too many students who live on campus own vehicles and do not need them. Students need to rethink the way they travel in order to help solve problems with parking on campus.

Many students’ cars come at a steep price, even when they are not used very often. Annual on-campus permits cost anywhere between $677 and $765 to park in the on-campus garages overnight. As young drivers, our insurance premiums fall, on average, between $83 and $416. Costly car repairs are constantly looming on the horizon. Add gas to these mounting costs, and over time, the total can easily surpass owners’ cost expectations and prevent them from making a return on their investment.

If we rethink transportation as a combination of services, car ownership might not make sense at all. There are a number of alternative transportation options students can use, which will save them money while reducing campus parking competition.

Capital Metro offers students free rides with the swipe of their student IDs, and the transportation provider’s services cover the greater Austin area. Unlimited access to all bus services costs almost $100 per month. Nothing beats free, and students ought to use this resource as often as they can. 

Another alternative to car ownership is on the rise. Since the City of Austin approved a pilot program for Uber and Lyft last year, these companies’ widespread use has grown tremendously, taking direct aim at vehicle owners as they try to expand their market.

Marco McCottry, Uber Austin’s general manager, believes the key to getting students to switch is providing reliable, on-demand service that is as convenient as car ownership at a low, long-term price. He wants to make Uber “as reliable as running water” and “available whenever, wherever.” When students do not use their vehicles often, the cost per ride for their own vehicles can be much higher than the cost per ride in an Uber. At its regular rate, an Uber from Jester Dormitory to Sixth Street varies from $5 to $7.

For students who use their vehicles infrequently, replacing them altogether with ride sharing and bus use makes too much sense to ignore any longer. In the process, we can save a great deal of money and make parking on campus easier for everyone.

Alexander Chase is a Plan II and economics junior from Royse City. He is a guest columnist. Follow him on Twitter @alexwchase.