Lakehead University’s Parking Problem:

As lakehead University – Orillia has grown there has been an increase in the number of students who have had to drive to the campus in order to attend classes. The Orillia campus is situated in a farmers field which allows for cheap future growth potential but makes it a commuter based school. This means as the school grows it needs to provide additional spaces for students to park in order to attend classes which is a costly venture. This has become increasingly challenging as Lakehead University wants to keep it LEED diamond status of which adding parking stalls would negatively affect. I believe that there is an opportunity to address the concerns of Lakehead Students and Lakehead University through a number of different means by working with the community. This article will focus on a number of different initiatives that Lakehead could take in order to address its growing parking issues.

Carpooling:

Lakehead University currently has 2-4 car stalls set aside for people who carpool. Carpooling rules at Lakehead University include vehicles with 2 or more people in them which allows them to use these stalls. These stalls fill up fairly quickly and there is no real means of policing the vehicles as they come in. Lakehead Security can’t accurately determine if someone is using it for their own spot regardless of the rules or if it is being legitimately used. I believe that Lakahead could address these issues by expanding its offering of carpooling and providing students with perks to carpool. Carpooling is a great way for people to reduce the environmental damage they create, build social relationships and still use a vehicle. Here are a couple thoughts on how Lakehead can promote carpooling.

1. Add more spots for carpooling vehicles to promote its use.
2. Place a security camera by the carpool spots for the vehicles protection but also to find out if people are using the spots illegally.
3. Fine those who use these spots without merit.
4. Create a carpooling website for all Lakehead students to use in order to find rides and reduce traffic.

The program could work as such: when registering for your parking pass the website would ask if you plan to carpool with friends. If yes, it sends out an email to those people and to your lakehead University email asking to sign up. If the 3-4 friends confirm his email then you received a 10% reduction on your parking pass costs. Using a mobile application or the website you check in to the spot and how many people you came with and it gives you a points system which unlocks prizes. After 2-3 months of consistently carpooling with other students it gives you and your carpool mates a $10 voucher to the café. The program would be available to students who would regularly drive to school and who because of this program don’t drive to school anymore. The costs savings to Lakehead could be enormous and would prevent them from having to build additional parking lots. If using this program we could eliminate 15% of cars coming and going to campus it could save a lot of gas, time and money.

Off-Campus Parking:

Lakehead University has consistent access to Orillia transit but for many students it’s not a viable option because they either live out of town or need to drive in order to get to school. Lakehead has already partnered with the City of Orillia to purchase parking spaces for students at the Rotary Place for a cheaper cost. The students pay Lakehead and then they pay an annual fee of roughly $10,000 for the spaces to the City of Orillia. I would like to see this program expanded with the partners in the community and with the City of Orillia. Lakehead students pay for a yearlong bus pass in their tuition which means they can take the bus for free at any point in that year. There are a couple opportunities I see for Lakehead to look at community partners to fill its parking woes. There is a call center, movie theater and the City of Orillia all of which have lots with quick and easy access to Orillia transit. Based on their proximity to campus one could have a reduced fee and consistent access to parking.

The Call center has a large parking lot that is rarely full and could easily accept 20-30 vehicles that belong to students. Based on its proximity to the school you could charge a little less than the rotary place spots but add to the available spots without having to add parking on your own property. That business makes good use of its available spots and it provides an additional source of income for the business. The photo below shows one of the parking lots that could be used for additional parking and the bus stop going to the school and coming back are very close to the site.

Call Center Lot

The Movie theater again is another business which I believe could benefit from the additional access and money coming into its business. The movie theater is often empty during the day so its lots are open and available for students to use. As movies start to come close to starting is when its lots become a little fuller and a little more challenging to find parking. I believe the area shown in the photo could be set aside specifically for Lakehead University students from a 8 am – 5 pm basis and then after that they would be fair game for patrons of the theater to use or students with late classes. As the distance increases between the school and the parking space the cost would decrease for the students. This could be attractive for students who don’t want to pay for $400 for a parking pass come September but might be more willing to pay $250 or 300.

Movie Theater Lot

Finally there is a lot of opportunity for Lakehead and the City of Orillia to work together to find a use for the municipal lots that are owned by the City of Orillia. I believe that the city could set aside areas in these lots for students who are driving in and pay a fee $100-150 to park there for the school year without fear of being ticketed. This would not only bring in additional revenue for the City of Orillia but it would also allow students to use Orillia transit and show just how valuable of a tool it is for the community by raising its ridership numbers. Orillia bylaw could continue to ticket vehicles in this area as normal and take in those revenues while accepting the additional revenue from those vehicles. If students don’t have the pass in their car window then they can be ticketed as if a normal vehicle failure to pay. The benefits are there for both Orillia and for Lakehead to mitigate the parking disaster that continues to happen at the school.

Downtown Lots

Enforcement and additional rules

Lakehead University would need to make sure that people who are parking in the areas that have been designated for students are in fact students who have paid. This would mean that they would have to go to these areas and check on the vehicles to make sure they are registered and have paid. This would mean that Lakehead would be allowed to ticket on other businesses property and those revenues would come back to the university in the form of parking tickets. This would keep the students in line with regards to stealing spots designated for paying students and would keep these spaces available for students from other individuals. The City of Orillia could continue its bylaw enforcement of its parking stalls as it does currently depending on the agreement. If those spots were designated for specifically Lakehead vehicles they would fine those without a pass which may require bylaw amendments. If they allowed students who paid to park as long as they had a pass anywhere in the designated lots then they could continue on as normal.

Signs designating the spots would need to be put in to show that this was a designated area and allow for proper implementation of the rules and conduct. There would also be a fee associated with being able to park in other lots. So if you purchased a main campus lot spot you would pay nothing to park in the other 3 lots (downtown, call center and movies) where as if you bought a downtown spot you would pay $100 and only be able to go up as close as the call center. You can always go down and further from campus for free.

Hopefully with full implementation of these plans Lakehead can address the constant concerns of students about a lack of parking without having to spend millions on parking lots that sit empty throughout the summer and 3 of 7 week days. Carpooling and working with the community partners are just a couple ideas I had in order to address the issues at Lakehead’s commuter campus. The campus needs to do more to get people out of their cars and into transit, carpool, buses or alternative means of transport.

Progress vs. Destruction

North of Barrie is a small town named Orillia with 31,000 people that has almost all the same amenities as a much larger city like Thunder Bay with a population of 107,000. Both have experience downturns and expansions relating to resource booms (Thunder Bay) and Agricultural boom (Orillia). There are a number of similarities between the two cities in the thinking of the city planners and those in the community. I find that there is a desire in both communities to keep the community small town feel and avoid excesses of the big city. Thunder Bay has an aging population as does Orillia and they are both home to a Lakehead University campus; along with a college campus. One thing I also find similar between the two communities is their fear of density and a desire to avoid high rise buildings. This was presented in a meeting to council just this past Monday as people demanded council change a plan to introduce a 4 story building in an established residential neighborhood. Issues like traffic, parking, smell, people and noise were all brought to the attention of council who didn’t believe those to be valid enough reasons to stop the development (Thank god). Orillia has shown a reluctance to introduce density and higher rise development as seen through the development of the Westridge space. Row upon row of single family housing packed tightly together to make the developer a lot of money. Only a small space set aside for townhomes and none to date set aside for any high rise buildings. This subdividion plan is seeing massive amounts of deforestation done to the area, geography changes and destruction of farmland as a result. This is as a result of the increasing number of students going to Lakehead University and Georgian College. I am torn between development and saving the environment but the plan for Westridge doesn’t even come close to doing a good job of #2.

This is type of area that we are destroying in order to make way for new homes. Adding additional people yet massive destruction of the areas in which we grow our food.

This is type of area that we are destroying in order to make way for new homes. Adding additional people yet massive destruction of the areas in which we grow our food.

Presented below are a number of photos taken recently that show the deforestation and the destruction of prime farm land in order to make way for new homes. This space will be filled with single family detached units and allow Orillia to continue its urban sprawl outwards. This sprawl will cost the city millions in infrastructure repair, increased services cost and greenspace destruction. The city planning seems to be of the same mindset as those planned in the height of the automobile. Orillia is a challenge in other modes of transport to move from the old part of town to the new West Orillia area. The City of Orillia transit runs the Westridge route every 30 minutes but due to its length it often runs late during busier hours of the day. This causes delays for riders and causes major concerns for those who need to ride the bud in order to get to work. There is no safe connection from the Westridge area to the older parts of Orillia unless you go on the Highway 11 overpass at Coldwater which is a challenging and potentially dangerous task. Even in the winter walking over the overpass is both dangerous and exposes pedestrians to the elements. The plan to develop this area I believe needs to be looked at again and brought up to a new standard one of which helps to reduce the cost to the City of Orillia, Orillia Transit and make the area more walkable and cyclist friendly. As a resident of the area I am a little bit of a hypocrite because I am part of the problem by renting in the area. I want to present a plan which I believe will help increase density, transit usage and make this a better community for everyone to live in.

Prime farmland destroyed in order to build new homes. The area was rolling hills but was flattened and the earth stripped. The levels of earth had dropped about 1 metre which makes this area now vulnerable to flooding during heavy rains due to the higher ground around it.

Prime farmland destroyed in order to build new homes. The area was rolling hills but was flattened and the earth stripped. The levels of earth had dropped about 1 metre which makes this area now vulnerable to flooding during heavy rains due to the higher ground around it.

We need to develop more density around bus stops and allow for Orillia Transit to take more vehicles off the road. This means more single unit apartment buildings and condominiums in this area which would be targeted at students and single individuals in the community. Townhomes should be built close to the university with walking paths and bike lanes directly connected to this area to allow students to walk or bike to the campus. This density will benefit Orillia transit with increased ridership and decrease the annual renewal costs of the City of Orillia. It will also bring in additional tax dollars which can be used to repair the roads or pay for increased transit services. The development mentioned before in Thunder Bay is expected to bring in $16,000 a year in tax income compared to the 2-3,000 a single family home would.

Bush that has been deforested and stripped away in order to make it easier to build on. This again was all farmland as of last year and now is dirt and mud which serves no environmental purpose or habitat purpose. Likely will not see homes for another couple of years.

Bush that has been deforested and stripped away in order to make it easier to build on. This again was all farmland as of last year and now is dirt and mud which serves no environmental purpose or habitat purpose. Likely will not see homes for another couple of years.

Increase the amount of natural habitat and greenspace in the Westridge development in order to alleviate the amount of destruction that we are doing to these natural areas. These area’s are natural habitats for animals and serve to help mitigate issues such as drainage. Natural drainage and water retention helps to save the city millions of dollars’ worth of sewers and mitigation projects. These areas also help to increase the value of a home because they can be natural sound barriers and protection from other residential/ commercial areas. It also provides the individuals in the area with a space to help relax and connect with nature. Spending time in the woods has been shown to have a positive effect on people’s mental and physical health. Greenspace is good for the entire community physically, mentally, financially and for the environment in general.

Increase the amount of opportunities for people to get around to other areas of the community by alternative means of transportation. Bike, walking or bus all need to be improved into this region in order to really help make this area a positive space for the community members and the environment. A bridge over Highway 11 is just one project that needs to be proposed and implemented in order to take bikes off the ill designed roadway and onto a safer area. The City of Orillia has started this process by designing multi use trails that connect the length of Westridge road and connects Rotary Place and Lakehead University. It would be great to see these paths continually expanded in order to allow for a more connected community. Bike racks on the front of city transit buses could be just one option to helping move people around. It would be less expensive than building a specifically designed bridge over the highway. For students who live in downtown or come from out of town and may need to park somewhere the City should be looking to make a monthly pass available for people to come and park then ride transit to school. It would be a money generator for the city and take vehicles off the road. The proponents for this construction needs to step up as well.

Old vs new. The green space is where farmland was and shows you just how much has been removed in order to make way for the new development.

Old vs new. The green space is where farmland was and shows you just how much has been removed in order to make way for the new development.

Lakehead University is the reason that this construction is going at hyper-speed and being a diamond level LEED school they should be working with the community more to promote positive environmental designs by city planners and working to promote a healthy community to which they are a part of. Georgian College also needs to step up and help to promote alternative means of getting its students from their homes to its campus. Universal transit passes for students and teachers are just one means of getting students consistently and easily from work, school or play home without a vehicle. Both need to make their voices heard and promote new ways of thinking within the City of Orillia. I would love to see Lakehead University – Orillia continue to add students into its downtown unit and expand its offerings there. I believe that the more students down there the more the community will expand and improve. Lakehead also needs to stick its neck out and ask for higher density housing around its campus in order to reduce the environmental impact it’s students are having on the community. This is a new development and it can be influenced to make sure it’s a modern one but we need people to step up and make these decisions today to truly influence the future positively.

Now I am not against development by any means and I understand that things will change in order to provide what the market wants or what is most profitable. We need to make the destruction we do as limited as possible and allow for us to live within our means more.

Construction #4

Here is a Google Earth photo of the area before the construction started. The area in question is spotted by the photo above and 2 more up.

Destruction Photo for Blog