I don't think I am giving away any campus secrets when I say that parking is a very divisive issue in UCD, as I am sure it is in many colleges. I can't resist raising this issue given that I have been working all today beside a window overlooking the three months of madness that began this morning with the reappearance of students on campus.
There are a number of sayings about academia and car-parks, at least some of which are better not printed on the blog. I can think of few other issues that so completely and utterly unite economists compared to other disciplines. I do not have hard quants for UCD but in this case I suggest we do not really need them to get the ball rolling. Anyone who is here need just look out their window any morning between 8 and 11, and any evening between 4 and 7. There are quite simply too many cars chasing too few places, and the mechanism of allocation is a bizarre form of queuing involving people who live nearby and obviously have a high valuation of the convenience of car transport and people who live farther away and have a relatively low range of alternatives. I have never ever met an economist who agrees with the current system whereby parking spaces are allocated freely to all students and staff. The queues to get out of UCD in the evening are substantial even to reach the campus gate and getting a parking space in the morning is a completely haphazard venture. If ever a scarce resource was crying out for a reasonable allocation mechanism, it is the UCD car-park. The current situation encourages people with low valuation of their time to overuse a scarce resource, creating excessive queueing costs for people who actually value the parking option at a rate they would pay for. It is completely contrary both to economic logic and to our desire to be an energy efficient campus environment. The distributional gains largely accrue to university students with cars (almost certainly a wealthier subset of students) and staff members who are willing to incur the inconvenience as opposed to paying the parking charge that would be incurred.
The obvious (and oft-asked) question is why are we not charging a reasonable amount to park here? What arguments exist that this is not a fair thing to do? If people have a high demand for fairness, the charge could be staggered based on student status and staff salary grade. We could even compensate students for losing the privilege by using the revenue to subsidise public transport. Perhaps understanding attitudes to this issue might help us to understand why economists are different to everyone else or at least why real world markets can persist in such a state.