September 25, 2003


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As a junior, I knew moving on to College Ave would bring some additional headaches. I even agreed to pony up way too much a month for a room in a house so poorly maintained that the rats from Donlon wouldn’t live there. But one month into the school year it has become glaringly apparent that there is a scam going on in Ithaca, one that would make Tony Soprano himself smile. While my more affluent roommate chose to spend a ridiculous amount of money on a parking space for this year, I mistakenly thought I could just park in the street and save some money. However, apparently Collegetown was designed before the prevalence of the automobile, leaving out entirely that important key to urban planning: adequate parking.

There are exactly enough spots on College Ave so that roughly one half of its residents can squeeze their cars into the 24-hour parallel spots. Even better, only half of that number can actually park because so many of our classmates from Long Island and Westchester are nice enough to jam their oversized SUV’s into spaces fit for three cars. Aesthetically pleasing and great for the environment. Thanks guys. Soon a part of my routine became driving circles endlessly around C-town trying to find a spot. After the tenth lap my patience usually gave in, and I parked in one the metered spots, wishfully thinking that I could wake up and move my car before 9 AM when the meter maid comes.

Ha. In the unlikely event that I do find a free spot, I leave my car there until I absolutely have to use it, in order to save my space. Not quite the plan I had behind bringing it up to school.

The City of Ithaca has become like my new landlord. It seems like I pay a monthly rent to them just to keep my car here. I don’t try to park illegally, but I still have more tickets than I know what to do with. (The folks at the athletic department could learn a thing or two from these guys.) When I sent the last check, I asked if there was a way to make monthly payments on the internet. Might as well try and make it easier.

After spending half my “book” money on parking tickets, I finally had the light bulb go off and looked into renting a space for the remainder of the year. Almost as pointless as trying to get up before class. Have you seen what they charge for parking here? I’m not a stingy person, but if I pay that much for parking, I better have an awning, a personalized nameplate and some ex-hotelie detailing my car when I’m not using it.

The City of Ithaca has of course done nothing to alleviate the parking problem, but they do provide friendly and courteous meter maids who have an almost preternatural sense of when a parking meter has run out. To top it off, all of the landlords seem to have to come to a consensus that parking in Ithaca should cost roughly the same as parking in Manhattan. It doesn’t take much to see a conspiracy is involved. I can see it now: dozens of graying old hippies sitting around a table in the back of Collegetown Bagels deciding that it’s alright to make the students take out loans for parking. The City doesn’t mind as long as they get their little envelope every week. From me. The only hope comes from the University, which recently won a court case about the west campus parking lot. Come on President Lehman, make them an offer they can’t refuse. Or else next year I’ll leave the damn car at home.

Archived article by Gautham Nagesh