Housing Complex

Can UDC Get Its Students to Come Without Cars?

Out of all the campus plans working their way towards the Zoning Commission this year, the University of the District of Columbia's is somewhat unique: None of the others are attempting to transform themselves into something entirely different. With this year's launch of the Community College of the District of Columbia–which will accommodate many of the city's non-traditional and part-time students–UDC wants to break free of its commuter-school image and become a bona fide residential campus.

To do that, UDC needs two things: A fancy student center where kids can hang out during the day, and dormitories, which it's never had before (the University currently leases about 100 units, primarily for athletes, at an apartment building across Connecticut Avenue). Nice facilities are essential to attract the caliber of students the University will need to raise its academic standing, UDC officials argued at an ANC 3F meeting on the subject last night–and it worked, sort of, with George Washington

At the meeting, there seemed to be little concern about the new student center, which will activate a huge dead plaza in front of drab, bunker-like buildings (inspiringly named "38" and "39.") Building two new residence halls for 600 students on the southwest corner of the campus, however, puts residents on edge–primarily because the campus plan doesn't call for increasing the current footprint of some 800 parking spaces, at the Office of Planning's behest. Won't all those students want to bring their cars?

The graying residents of Tenleytown seemed certain that they would, despite UDC officials' protestations to the contrary.

"I think we all know from our own days in college that that's not true," argued ANC commissioner Karen Perry.

"Having a car is like moving away from your parents," another audience member insisted. "Come on, it's lifestyle!"

So, this is the problem. UDC's grumpy neighbors are operating on memories of a time where a personal vehicle equaled freedom, perhaps in places where colleges were able to provide ample space for parking. That's just not necessarily the case anymore: Students are recognizing that owning a car is more hassle than it's worth, not to mention more expensive, in a city where parking tickets are handed out like candy and public transit is good enough to get you most of the places you need to go. Besides, allowing more students to live on campus would seem to imply that fewer of them need to commute. And let's also remember that the average UDC student is a lot poorer than the average Georgetown or GW student, meaning that going without a car (or keeping it at their parents' home, since most will come from the District) is a much more attractive option.

It's also true, though, that the campus plan envisions an enrollment increase from 3,200 students to 10,000 students in 2020, which is a lot (although it's worth remembering that the student body was 14,000 in 1980). And they can't just count on all those students not to bring their cars of their own volition. To that end, UDC proposes to actively discourage personal vehicles through "dynamic pricing" of parking (making the University-owned parking facilities more expensive during periods of high usage) and "aggressively marketing" Zipcars, as well as exploring the use of transit benefits for both students and staff. Plus, a Circulator route down Connecticut Avenue to Adams Morgan and Columbia Heights and out to Brookland is planned for the next phase of the system's expansion.

The final, unspoken element is something more intangible: Creating a culture of non-car-ownership. I went to school in Manhattan where no parking was provided for students and people would look at you strangely if owned a car. The District isn't that far away from having similar convenience (though allowing more amenities like cool bars and coffeeshops into Tenleytown would lessen the appeal of vehicles as well).

The bottom line is, if you make owning and parking really difficult, and make taking transit really easy, students aren't that dumb–they'll do what's best for them, with a little nudge.

  • Rick Mangus

    There is no reason for anyone attending or working at UDC to drive there, it's just stupid to!

  • Lovelace

    UDC must know where their students are coming from. Sometimes the car is about where you're coming from rather than where you're going. That being said, I can't imagine they'd need MORE parking as a result of this development, and some dynamic pricing to discourage driving is probably a good move. They can always create a pass system for students who can demonstrate that they need to drive based on lack of a reasonable commute via public transit from where they live but can't afford the parking fees.

  • Mary

    UDC does not need any dorms as students can commute daily to and from campus. The money would be better spent on improving the existing buildings and improving the academic programs. The same for the Student Center, a 40 million dollar building for 1,500 students to hang out in, maybe, is not prudent spending of funds. A three story student center will not bring students to enrolling in your institution. Stop focusing on the frosting on the cake, focus on the cake.

  • Tom

    I just dont know if its that many students that will actually need residence at dorms at UDC. I highly doubt they have a sizable out of city population and the kids that do go there are local. What reason, other than "getting away from mom and dad" would kids have to pay more for a school they can get to and from in 20 mins or less?

  • Kasey

    I went to GW for undergrad, then UDC for law. No one at GW had or used a car. Why? Because everyone lived on or near campus or used the Metro, because the parking passes cost so much, and because it was more of a hassle than anything. At UDC it was different because of the commuter culture. There is no reason a person needs a car to go to UDC, not with the Metro literally across the street.

  • otavio

    People need to realize that UDC does attract students outside of Washington, DC to attend its school. All one needs to do to verify this is look at their research reports that are available on their website. These research reports detail exactly where students come from. I know people may be shocked to hear this, but the numbers show it.

    UDC wants to become more than a commuter school. I agree with this strategy. In order for it to become more than a commuter school, it needs facilities that other traditional campuses have such as dorms, a student center, a dining facility, etc.

    Also, the school is a stone's throw from a Metrorail station. The people in the neighborhood cannot assume that the things that they wanted or did when they were in school generations ago is what future students will want to do in 2011. Making this type of assumption is backward and not very productive.

    The 100 or so units that UDC leases in the adjacent privately-owned residential building across the street from the campus is filled. I believe the 600-bed facility that UDC wants to build will be well used. There are other infill opportunities on campus in addition. One of those infill tracts of land can even be built with a garage if need be in the future.

  • DC Resident

    This is an incredibly ageist article.

    "Graying residents of Tenleytown"

    "grumpy neighbors are operating on memories of a time"

    Is ageism the hip new bigotry at the CityPaper?

  • thedofc

    UDC is NOT in Tenleytown!

  • WashingtonDame

    Well, I'm 55, so I guess I'm one of the graying, grumpy people whom you choose to attack rather than objectively airing our concerns. First of all, since you've chosen to engage in personal nastiness, Lydia, you're obviously a stupid airhead youngster who can't read a map, because the last time I looked (and yes, I had on my reading glasses), UDC was in Van Ness, not Tenleytown. You young people are just so clueless! Second, our concerns involve much more than traffic. They also involve the demise of the peace and quiet of our neighborhood. Did you even bother to contact the Van Ness South Tenants' Association? They have valid complaints about the behavior of the students placed in their building by UDC. Late night parties, smoking, screaming in the halls, etc. Some of us actually WORK for a living (which I think you're too young to understand), and we don't want to live in a college dorm. Given UDC's poor performance in even listening to our complaints, much less responding to them, we are NOT willing to support its expansion.

    When you grow up, Lyida, maybe you can become a reporter, but you'll have to go to school and learn journalism first. Until then, you're noting more than nasty little b!tch. How's that for grumpy, little girl?

  • Lydia DePillis

    @WashingtonDame - Well now, that was sure mature of you.

  • WashingtonDame

    @Lydia DePillis

    An ageist like you richly deserves a public rebuke. Maybe you'll learn something for the next time.

  • Law23

    UDC has a great law school with a very capable student body. UDC needs to put as much money as possible into developing what I call DC's "best kept secret." I have heard they are going to build a new law school building near the courts but it should be kept in Tenleytown.

  • Mick

    Tenleytown residents are old and grumpy.

  • michaeliceman

    Well, obviously UDC is trying to capture some of the local students that are going to Bowie State, Morgan State and Coppin State. As I read the campus expansion plan, it is about remaking UDC's image into a residential university. IMO, not a bad thing.

    And to all the neighborhood residents, please consider the following. It may not be a bad thing to have a dorm and student center on campus. First off, they might not need the Van Ness South units anymore. As I understand the issue from some UDC folks, the campus police do not have any authority to deal with issues in Van Ness South. I do not know if it is true. But it may be better for all that to be contained in a dorm on campus where the campus police can deal with those issues directly.

    Also, I wonder how the local business owners feel. Because although the new student center would give the students hang out and dining options on campus, I wonder what's the potential impact on the Epicurean, or the Potbelly's, or the Burger King down the street. Would they benefit from having a university with resident students?

  • Jim

    UDC students are a hell of a lot brighter than Bowie State, Morgan State or Coppin State. Their law school is also very good. Many of the law students come from Yale, NYU, GW etc. The clinical program is top ten in the nation.

  • Ward3

    Oh why didn't I see this article before! I have so much to say about UDC and Van Ness. I've been harrased for a long time, unable to sleep because of noise and screaming in the hallways and inside their apartments (which can be heard inside other tenant's apartments,) dirty laundry rooms, doors, walls, crying students on the phone and intoxicated on the hallways, loud noises at 3, 4, or 5:00 in the mornings and so on...why? Why do we have to put up with all these issues when we work so hard to pay rent? Because they are students? So what? If my kids were behaving like that in an apartment building, disregarding the rights of other tenants, I would be very hard on them. Respect for others is a must, I don't care what age or color you are.

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  • http://letschange.org Respected Citizens

    The only great thing about UDC is the Law School, and that is uncontested.

    However, Mayor Gray must stop giving federal competitive money to Sessom, with highly paid individuals like Barbara Jumper, Connie Spinner (Vince Gray long term Ward 7 friend, who Fs up every program she touch financially), and the other heavy hitters that are hired on tax dollars, who do not raise a DAMN cent for the public university.

    Note, that spinner hired Finness Jones the ally of Fenty to manage a Cosmetology and Barbering program that had to be shut down early this year, after the Post was investigating. This shut down was a result of UDC's Community College operationg with licensed Instructors, and Managers. Today, Jones is taking the course.

    The question should be for our city's stipud Mayor, why in the hell would Spinner hire Jones, and whose paying for his one year course or courses. ''

    Until the top administration consist of real transparent Managers under a bonafide Leader, the President of the University problems of the past will continue, and become the funding nightmare of DC residents.

    Another issue, Gray has permitted Employment Services, with a limited Director to provide federal funds over to UDC. When Sessum and his highly paid staff can write their proposal to Labor and the Department of Education as a local post-secondary institution.

    But, Gray being a Black male chauvinist provides whatever amount of funding the unfit President Sessom needs, as oppose to making his show ability to be able to self governed.

    Gray should have stayed the Chairman of City Council and NEVER ran for Mayor because he fails to lead our city overall. Yes, Fenty had to go, but why duplicate his inaccurates with an old ugly ass duplicate.

    Are you aware, that Employment Services gave the Good Will 2 ot 3 million dollars without a competitive process. What prompted this man to allow such an outcome.

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