Parking at Severn is a controversial topic. Every day in advisory, I hear tales of this morning’s parking struggles, and conversations about parking continue all day. Quotes like these float through the hallways: “I circled around to find parking three times this morning and completely missed advisory after I had to park at Cypress.” “Severn needs to figure out a parking situation,” students exclaim, venting to teachers. Parking is arguably the biggest issue at Severn that students deal with daily, but there is not much done about it. Junior Cole Keefer says, “Parking is hands down the worst thing at Severn.” Senior Emma Beall says, “It’s really frustrating as a student trying to park every morning when there are parents parked in every spot, just waiting to drop kids off then leaving. That was a spot I could have had! I also hate finding out it’s small event parking but didn’t know until I get to school and read the email that was sent at 11 at night. I feel that there are a lot of parking issues that need to be addressed.”
When complaints are brought up, we are often told to just “get here earlier.” But when this message gets told to everyone, everyone is here 30 minutes early and still struggling to find parking. Waking up before the sun rises to get to school early enough to find parking is not only annoying, but also dangerous. After staying up the night before to study for tests and waking up at 6:30 in the morning for my 40-minute commute, I know I am sleep deprived while driving, and my quick decision making skills struggle — a vital part of being behind the wheel. I know I am frustrated when I am sitting in my car waiting to go into school thinking “those 20 more minutes of sleep would be really nice right now.”
Senior Sarah Gershman says, “I think one of the big issues is that teachers say there’s plenty of spaces by Alumni House on Maple, which is not true. Many students park there and students have to park in no parking zones, handicap spots, etc., in order to get to school. The school seems oblivious and aware at the same time — they get angry at us but don’t provide a solution. The junior parking at Cypress is not being enforced and there just is not enough parking!”
The CDC states, “Studies have shown that going too long without sleep can impair your ability to drive the same way as drinking too much alcohol.” More than 6,000 fatal crashes every year are related to drowsy driving, and drivers under the age of 25 are involved in at least 50% of these crashes. SleepEducation.org says “Teens and young adults have a higher risk of drowsy driving because they are newer drivers who are often chronically sleep deprived. The combination of sleepy teens driving with limited skills and limited experience poses a danger to drivers and pedestrians.” Every teen knows the dangers of driving while intoxicated, but not many people think about how sleep deprivation can impact our judgement and driving.
This is a complicated issue, lacking a clear solution, but many students agree that parents of students need to be aware of the situation as much as we are. Cars dropping off students are often blocking the road, and do not let students pull out of spaces or cross the road when walking to the buildings. Although it’s hard early in the morning, I think we all could appreciate some kindness to each other in the community, to make our lives just a little easier.
Thank you for highlighting the issue of parking on campus. It can be a frustrating one, but it does not defy solution, nor is the solution even difficult.
Every year, I start my MSON economics class with a discussion about campus parking. Since I teach students across the country and world, I get many different answers. You might be surprised to hear that the parking situations in other schools are far worse than at Severn. However, Severn’s parking problems, like many schools, result from ignoring Adam Smith’s Invisible Hand of the market. Schools tend to use allocation systems like first-come/first-served for parking and seating in class. When that doesn’t work, schools use what economists call allocation by fiat. This means that someone in power issues a decree, often based on a series of well-intentioned rules. The writer of the article was mainly taking issue with both these systems.
I would advocate a market-based system, where people pay for parking on a daily or weekly basis. The reason my econ students often come to this conclusion is that it is the only system that will respond to greater demand and fix the problem with greater supply. As long as we treat the number of spaces as fixed, there will always be people who are left out when we try to carve the parking pie. However, a market-based system will incentivize suppliers to create additional spaces. The supplier does not even need to be the school. An entrepreneur could buy some nearby land and put up a garage or parking lot. Again, students at other MSON schools report parking on private parking lots. Those people who do not want to pay could find alternatives such as carpooling, walking, UBERing or parking legally in public spots. Often the question of fairness arises with respect to people who live far away or for whom the other costs of attendance at an independent school are barely affordable. Certainly, there could be vouchers that people could apply for. But in general, people need to understand the notion of opportunity cost, what you give up when making a decision. Students understand the idea that the opportunity cost of hitting the snooze button means losing out on a good parking spot. Paying for parking might mean a sacrifice in another area. Some would choose to make this tradeoff and others would not. For example, I choose to sacrifice getting season tickets to the Ravens so I can send my kids to Severn.
The next time you get gasoline, consider why you don’t have to circle the block three times to find an empty pump. It’s because gas is allocated using a market system, not first-come/first serve, fiat or a lottery system. Gas is plentifully available without a wait because there is an incentive for entrepreneurs to provide it in large enough numbers. Were that parking allocated the same way.
These views are mine personally. I do not speak for Severn School or MSON.
Julien H. Meyer III