Ann Arbor has often been criticized for not having sufficient transportation accessibility, and many students have horror stories about problems with trying to find parking.

“Everyone has their cars but nowhere to take them because the size of campus compared to kids is pretty small,” LSA junior Megan Stevenson said. “I’ve paid my share of parking tickets. I think I’ve paid more than any other person at school.”

LSA senior David Kamara said that the city has towed his car three times. “I got towed in my house because I parked in the visitor’s lot,” he said. “Somebody else was in my spot. I got home late. I didn’t want to knock on people’s doors. But when I got up the next morning my car was gone. Towing and everything was over $100. And I could at that moment have called a tow truck on the car in my spot and parked there.”

Candidates for positions in the city government have heavily discussed the reformation of parking accessibility, and also promoting mass transportation as an alternative to cars during this election.

Councilwoman Marcia Higgins, the Republican candidate for mayor, said the City Council should improve mass transit through a closer look at its Ann Arbor Transportation Authority Board appointments and that the University should provide greater opportunities for student parking. “I don’t think that (the University) has provided any new parking with all of its increased construction. It’s deplorable,” she said.

Republican council candidate Jeff Hauptman, running in the 2nd Ward, said merging the University’s mass transportation with the city’s could provide a more enhanced system. He said he would like to resurrect a failed plan within the council to combine the two existing systems.

“I’d like to find out what didn’t work and I’d like to address it,” he said.

Democrat Margie Teall, running in the 4th Ward, admitted parking was difficult in Ann Arbor, but said that she would need to investigate the problem further to devise a solution. “There are fewer and fewer spaces, and more and more for University of Michigan permit only,” she said.

Although one direct solution to the transportation problem would be the construction of new parking structures within the city, many candidates fear that building new lots would exacerbate congestion and the already heavy air pollution in Ann Arbor. “Ann Arbor does have air pollution,” said incumbent mayoral candidate John Hieftje, a Democrat. “We have 16 to 17 ozone action days each summer. They are detrimental and can really threaten your health.”

Many candidates, including Hieftje, proposed to construct a parking garage outside of the city and to use the bus system to bring people in town.

“There’s no sense from an environmental viewpoint to build more parking structures in the city,” he said. “We need to provide enough transportation for people so that they feel they don’t need their cars.”

Republican Jeff DeBoer, running in the 3rd Ward, had similar plans for parking outside of Ann Arbor.

“You got to have parking if you want people to come downtown to patronize restaurants,” he said. “Maybe there is a lack of spaces, but I don’t know where you can put a new parking ramp. Maybe we should build remote lots and bring people in through AATA. Let’s keep the cars out of the city.”

In addition to building a new structure outside of town, Hieftje also said he wants to increase accessibility for pedestrians and bikers. He said he is devising a Pedestrian Bill of Rights similar to the one in Milwaukee, Wis. that would provide more foliage and artistic sights along streets and limit the width of roads on the outer part of the city.

Democrat Kim Groome, running unopposed in the 1st Ward, also said she wanted the city to enhance pedestrian accessibility, pointing to her own work in Ann Arbor’s Bicycling Advisory Committee.

“The more you provide parking, the more it encourages them to drive cars,” she said. “We need to make Ann Arbor as pedestrian friendly as possible and move toward a more aggressive mass transportation system.”

Until any of these proposals come to pass, however, residents of Ann Arbor may have to rely on their legs to get them where they need to go.

“It’s nice to be able to walk. It’s good for you. That’s why Ann Arbor is so neat,” LSA junior Stevenson said.

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