By Phil Brown
According to the rhetoric of the University of Nebraska at Omaha’s brand, the University and the city of Omaha are in a symbiotic relationship.
Omaha as it is couldn’t survive or thrive without the life-giving force of UNO graduates, and UNO certainly wouldn’t last long without a city to host it. But it often seems that instead of coexisting in harmony, the two symbiotes are often trapped in a cycle of push and pull, give and take, attack and defend.
On Nov. 17, a car that appeared to belong to a student was seen to be towed out of an Elmwood Park parking lot. At around the same time, parking signs were noticed on many of the parking stalls in the park that limited stall use to 2 hours upon penalty of towing. The developments came as a complete surprise to UNO students and faculty, who were placed in the position of immediately having to find free parking replacements.
The problem is, there aren’t really any replacement parking stalls for those the city has effectively taken away. Paid campus lots are already clogged, and free parking lots near North Campus are virtually nonexistent. Nearby streets are already crowded with parked cars on school days. The free parking solution the University provides at the new arena on Center street is prohibitively far away, requiring a seemingly interminable shuttle commute.
The University has scrambled to provide solutions for students, offering discounted parking passes for campus lots and touting the free parking at Baxter Arena. But both solutions are partial at best, and ineffectual at worst. Campus lots are already full.
They were full before the University continued their misguided policy of axing parking without replacing it. And the arena parking is no kind of replacement for parking a few minute’s walk away from the classroom, and students shouldn’t be expected to put up with half-hour shuttle waits and commutes as a matter of course. The university has failed to adequately provide for student transportation.
On the city’s part, such a manipulative move is indefensible. By failing to notify the university or students, the city has revealed their hand to be that of disingenuous plotting. It’s a power play: one designed to retake ground the city sees as lost to a motley crew of dirty students at the expense of the affluent citizens from nearby residential districts.
This falls into the familiar pattern of the city failing to account to the university’s needs and reflect their role in the relationship between them, as well as the nasty tendency to gentrify the experience of everyone but the moneyed yuppie commuter they see as their ideal citizen.
But both sides of the struggle are fighting at the expense of us, the students. They are battling over our parking, toying with our student lives.
If the relationship between the city and state is to benefit either of them, it must be with the experience of students in mind. Both stand to lose by alienating their student population, and the decisions made about parking and transportation now will have long-term consequences.
LEARN MORE ABOUT ELMWOOD PARK’S PARKING RESTRICTIONS
Watch a video about the new parking limitations.