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NEWS | Sunday, 04 November 2007

Park and rage, University style

Bianca Caruana

Chaos ensued this month after the implementation of a new parking system at the University of Malta, with numerous students stuck in traffic jams before beginning their lectures throughout the day in a race to find a parking space.

Admittedly it may sound incongruous for university students – associated the world over with buses, bicycles and other forms of cheap transport – to be arguing over where to park their cars. But equally incongruous is the sight of traffic jams congesting all the student parking areas, whilst parking spaces allocated to university staff remained relatively empty throughout the day.

Prof. Victor Buttigieg, president of the university lecturers’ union UMASA, defended the new parking system, but admitted that more of the parking spaces currently reserved for academics needed to be freed up for students.

“On behalf of the lecturers, the university parking system is much better compared to previous years,” Prof. Buttigieg told MaltaToday. “Discussions between all involved parties are still ongoing. We propose that spaces not being used by staff should be distributed appropriately.”

Certainly the current distribution is far from appropriate. One visual complaint takes the form of a video uploaded on YouTube.com, intended to illustrate the problems encountered by students to find parking before lectures whilst comparing it to the staff’s abundant parking spaces.

“Countless times I’ve had to drive more than once around all available student-parking areas and not find anywhere to park,” one student told MaltaToday. “I did not fail to notice the empty parking spaces in all the staff parking areas. It is not the first time that I have had to leave my car in staff parking spaces because I risked missing a lecture after driving around and round for half an hour or more, and received a warning because of it.”

Another frustrated student said, “Since the new parking system was introduced, finding a parking spot for students has become incredibly difficult. The amount of spaces reserved for us students is frustratingly unbalanced when compared to academic staff and employees.

“On a good day it takes me five to 10 minutes to find a parking place during peak hours; on a bad day, anywhere between 10 and 45 minutes. What makes the whole experience a lot worse is the fact that 10 metres away, one can always find some 50 odd free spaces assigned for non-academic staff, not counting around 200 free spaces on the ring-road.”

According to David Herrera, the President of the University Student Council (KSU), teething problems were expected to arise with the new system, which in itself needs “fine tuning”.

Herrera said, “The greatest problem with the implementation of the new system was that, whilst KSU sought to pass on information to the students and ensure a smooth transition to the new parking system, certain elements of the political media and organizations pounced on what they saw as a good opportunity to turn something like parking into a political issue. This has unfortunately placed the relatively small parking issue onto the national platform, and this is not leaving a good impression of the priorities of students.”

KSU has given students a three-week moratorium to apply and collect their parking permit stickers to park in the student allocated parking areas. As of next week all cars not clearly showing their permits will be clamped wherever they are parked.



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04 November 2007

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