Red Tape, High Fees: Looking for Parking

For Dean of Undergraduate Education Susan G. Pedersen, where to park her car is the last thing on her mind at 8:20 a.m. as she rushes to make an 8:15 meeting.

Pedersen doesn't have a University-issued parking place, and despite her efforts to search for a spot on the street, she came up empty one morning last week. So she did the best she could, leaving her car on Quincy Street and hoping traffic cops wouldn't notice.

"By the time I went to retrieve it an hour and a half later, it had been towed," Pedersen says. "If it weren't that I feel that I ought to dress respectably, I'd just go back to biking."

Faculty parking complaints have a history.

In his 1963 book The Uses of the University, Clark Kerr, president emeritus of the University of California, wrote about trying times in higher education.

"The great administrative problems of the day were sex for the students, athletics for the alumni, and parking for the faculty," Kerr wrote.

Harvard is no exception. With an extensive set of rules and regulations, the Harvard parking office can keep faculty members wait-listed for parking spaces for so long that may simply give up.

Assistant Professor of Government Andrea Campbell says that after listing three Harvard parking lots as her top choices at the beginning of last year, she was told that all were full and the only free spaces were at the Business School, more than a little hike from her office. She has been waiting ever since.

"At this point I've given up and just take the bus, cheaper and more environmentally friendly," Campbell says. "Even if I were finally to be awarded a permit, I would turn it down and continue to use the bus."

Faculty who park in Harvard lots can get different types of parking permits. The "pooled" permit allows parking in designated areas from 7 a.m. to midnight for $420 per year.

Professor of English James Engell '73 owns a permit, and though he says parking is a problem for many faculty members, he says lives in Acton and frequently takes the commuter rail into Cambridge and is thus less inconvenienced than other professors.

"Parking is increasingly under pressure, and parking is a problem," Engell says. "I don't know if it will get better. I have talked to the parking office several times and suggested that they do some tough enforcement."

For luckier professors, assigned spaces are available for use on a 24-hour basis but cost almost twice as much as pooled parking places.

Bernbaum Professor of Literature Leo Damrosch has a private spot on Prescott Street behind the Barker Center--a spot for which many professors would kill.

Though Damrosch does not drive to work every day, he is afraid to give up the parking space for fear that he would never get another one.

"If I ever gave it up, I would never get it back," Damrosch says. "I would have go all the way back to the bottom of the list."

Baker Professor of Economics Martin S. Feldstein '61 has a pooled parking spot in the Littauer parking lot, but says that if he doesn't arrive early in the morning, there is often no place for him to park.

"That suggests that the University has set the price too low for the parking places, or that they do not tow cars that are illegally parked," Feldstein says. "Or have someone check that anyone entering with a car has the permit."

Perhaps, Feldstein suggests, there should be a higher price for parking spaces and that the parking office should only sell as many permits as they have spots.

But like water in the desert, a parking place at Harvard is hard to come by--even for those in high places.

"Since I'm a dean and a senior professor and don't have a parking place, I would doubt there is too much hierarchy involved," Pedersen says.

For those who, like Campbell, are fed up with Harvard parking altogether, like Campbell, the alternative of a breath of fresh air on the alternative walk to work is a welcome shift.

Kenan Professor of Government Harvey C. Mansfield Jr. '53 walks to work on a regular basis and thus has only the rare encounter with the Harvard Parking bureaucracy.

"Occasionally, when I do drive, Mansfield says, "not having a sticker, I get a lovely crimson citation, which I duly pay."

Other occasional parkers have similar laments.

Ropes Professor of Political Economy Richard E. Caves says that in order to legally park his car at the University for the day, he has to pay five dollars in advance for a permit.

"My only gripe with the parking rules concerns my desire, on the odd occasion, to bring a car to the office on weekends for goods-hauling purposes," Caves says. "There are parking spaces available all over, but Harvard nonetheless requires purchase in advance."

Dean of the Faculty Jeremy R. Knowles says remedies to faculty parking problems are in the works.

A lot of land within close radius of Harvard, Knowles says, is already given over to parking.

But despite restrictions on the space available, Knowles says Harvard may build an underground parking garage in the North Yard near the Divinity School and use the above-ground area for academic buildings.

"The present planning is to be able to provide parking for faculty and staff that is convenient, that optimizes our use of land, and is not unsightly," Knowles says.