And this is just the 'cost of doing business', by providing an 'essential service' to students. I've got a better idea---BUILD A BRT. A nice one, a 'Rubber Tyred Light Rail' sort of BRT. Dedicated lanes, signal priority, electric buses with an overhead caternary (to eliminate that diesel-engine rumble), the works.
But therein resides one of the fundamental problems of financing transit systems. The parking garages were not built all at once-- U of A has doubtless been built one every five or ten years for several decades. You can't really build transit that way--transit relies on a network effect. The 'yield curve' for benefits is different. For parking garages, it's linear. For transit, it's exponential. If you built $22 million of transit every 5 years, you would get:
- 1/2 mile of light rail
- 1 mile of streetcar
- 2 miles of high quality BRT
But those are variable costs, ignoring the 'startup' costs of starting a new transit service--maintenance sheds, 'tail track' to the sheds for rail vehicles, signal control.... Rail is a transit sector with high barriers to entry. Lower marginal costs, but very high fixed costs.
Cost of land seems to be the straw that breaks the camels back. When a University looks at the cost of acquiring 5 contiguous acres for a new parking garage, which has to be within walking distance of campus, other alternatives are on the table. And more transit typically looks good, simply because a new transit system makes use of existing public right of way.