Saturday, September 16, 2017

Driving the Underground Agenda: parking @ UBC

UBC is trying to move forward with a 200 car underground parking garage tucked into the space between the NEST, Bird Coop, War Memorial Gym, and the Alumni Centre.

As noted in a commentary from the resurrected blog, UBC Insiders, there is much to question about why such a facility is needed.

The underground parking garage is being brought to next week's (Sept. 20/21, 2017) Board of Governor's meeting for Board 2& 3 approval - the decision that makes the building of the garage a fait accompli.

There is a certain irony involved here.  UBC has been very loudly touting it's 'innovative' sustainability agenda which includes constraining individual car trips off and on campus. Yet here we have a project that's stated mandate is to facilitate and encourage car trips into the ceremonial center of campus.  Somewhere, somehow, some time in the recent past someone came up with the brilliant idea to build an underground garage to encourage cars into campus. The current sell on this presents it as fulfilling UBC's engagement mandate - engagement with off campus communities.

Who are these off campus communities that require a concrete underground parking garage? If we consider the facilities nearby one very prominent 'engagement' space comes to mind: the Alumni Centre.  All kinds of high level 'engagement' activities take place here: Board of Governor's meetings, President's advisory meetings, Alumni executive and related meetings, and donor gatherings.  Is it possible that this multi-million dollar concrete car storage and attractor facility is simply to further this kind of elite level engagement?

How does attracting and facilitating car transport of special off-campus elites really serve the best interests of our public university? How does encouraging cars advance UBC's sustainability agenda? Realistically this does not advance the over arching best interests of our university nor does it contribute to UBC's sustainability agenda.  UBC's management needs to carefully rethink this project. How can the asserted needs of 'engagement' be met through other means? Where is the modelling to see  what the impact on engagement might be in the absence of the underground parkade?

Before this project can be properly considered UBC's management team needs to do a fuller job reviewing their options and the implications of their planning.  We expect a lot from our management team, but aren't they the leaders of a top 50 global institution? Shouldn't we expect more than good, shouldn't we expect beyond excellence in planning and design?

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