Cal State Fullerton is working to transform the university from a suburban schoolhouse to a residential campus in hopes of bolstering the campus experience, but it should instead refocus its efforts on safer parking for its overwhelming number of suburban students.
According to the CSUF Master Plan, the vision is to increase student housing and amenities provided on campus, as well as consider student suggestions for off-campus housing within walking distance to reduce automobile dependency . Ultimately, one of the reasons for the change is to increase registrations.
The problem remains that CSUF has a higher commuter student population than its residential presence. The university should accept CSUF status as a commuter school and work to create a better space for commuters.
Commuting is financially ideal, and one of CSUF’s selling points to its students is that many of them live within driving distance. For those who don’t, many would rather spend the money on an off-campus apartment or house.
As of June 2022, over 90% of students live off campus. CSUF has been heavily populated with commuting students since classes began in 1959. The university experimented with low-occupancy residence halls in the 1960s, but student interest was low. The university’s first major halls of residence complex was not opened until 1988.
Although CSUF has long been a commuter school, the university recently completed construction of new on-campus residential housing in what was once parking lot E.
The drive to turn CSUF into a residential campus completely ignores the well-being of commuters.
Despite increasing CSUF enrollment over the years, their master plan shows 2 later proposed parking structures, as well as the second Eastside parking structure added in 2021.
Yet this is still not enough to accommodate CSUF commuters. Lack of parking places forces students to rush through structures for a chance to get the first free spot they see and because of this, accidents happen easily.
Captain Scot Willey of University Police said that between mid-August and the second week of September this year there was one unparked hit-and-run and 22 parked hit-and-runs. According to data from the CSUF Police Department’s Fall 2019 Report, there were 47 hit-and-runs from parked vehicles in campus parking lots and structures and nine hit-and-runs from unparked vehicles.
In an area full of busy students, it’s no surprise that accidents are a recurring problem, putting student safety at risk. The CSUF should consider the student commuter population to ensure learner driver safety.
Young drivers tend to run through structures, and while they should be held accountable, the CSUF should create an environment where it reduces accidents that occur in campus parking structures. The university has been around for over 60 years and relying on students to simply “drive better” hasn’t worked. It is time for the university to intervene and find a solution.
Prioritizing the construction of parking structures with wider lanes will create adequate spacing for cars of different sizes. Placing circular convex safety mirrors in the corners so people turning can see oncoming cars and adding proper lighting are steps the university can spend its time and resources on to make parking structures safer for students on the shuttle.
The university should come to terms with the fact that CSUF is a commuter school and will remain so, as evidenced by trends over the years. Taking steps to improve the current situation, rather than creating something new for more problems to arise, is a better option.
Alexander Alvarado contributed to this story.