An Asphalt Education

UC San Diego parking lot perched atop a canyon

Every once in awhile, we hear from an organization outside the U.S. looking to launch an educational TV channel similar to UCTV: no-frills content, rich with information, designed to bring the intellectual inspiration found on a university campus to the general public. What do they want to know? How the heck we program a 24/7 television channel with quality content on the tiniest of budgets.

The simplified answer is this: we see ourselves as a gatherer and disseminator of the boundless knowledge being generated on the University of California’s ten campuses, medical schools, national labs and other affiliated institutions. We’re not astrophysicists, autism experts or art historians, but we have access to them (and myriad others) and make it our mission to bring what they do and why they do it to our viewers in as pure–and hopefully understandable–a form as possible.

Our job isn’t to “spin,” mediate or truncate–there’s enough of that in the world of commercial media. No, our goal is to find, encourage and assist dedicated UC faculty and staff in bringing what they do to the world, and we’ve been doing that job for over 11 years. Exactly how we do this is what we share with the ambitious souls who reach out to us, as a station from Saudi Arabia recently did and Brazil’s Canal Futura, which invited our director to Rio de Janeiro to talk to university representatives from around the country.

But every once in awhile, they teach us a thing or two. This was certainly the case last week when we were visited by a representative from Berlin-based Da VinciU, a television channel currently gathering educational content to share with their predominantly Eastern European audience.

As is almost always the case, our visitor got a little lost trying to find our tiny building situated on the edge of UC San Diego‘s sprawling 1,200-acre campus.  After finally settling in to our director’s office, just a little winded, she explained how strange it is to see a university with so much space for things like dorms, sculpture gardens, outdoor plazas, even hiking trails. European cities have been built to capacity for hundreds of years, so space is at a premium. More often than not, an urban university is just one of many institutions that line the historic avenues. Not so in Southern California, and certainly not at UC San Diego, which only just celebrated its 50th anniversary. In European years, we’re still in diapers.

But what really blew this Berliner away was the amount of space we set aside for….parking lots. To us it seems like there’s never an open spot to store our cars while we’re at work, and we have to pay a pretty penny for the privilege. But to a European urbanite who most likely doesn’t even own a car, the idea of wasting precious land for fields of asphalt just seems ridiculous.

No argument here. But how do we change what’s become an integral part of the SoCal lifestyle? This is just one of the many research questions being pondered across the university by researchers specializing in urban planning, transportation, engineering, alternative energy, and more. If and when they figure out a way to transform our parking lots into truly usable space, we’ll let you know.

In the meantime, check out these related programs on UCTV:

Urban Planning

Energy Policy

Sustainability and Public Policy

And these related UC centers and academic programs:

University of California Transportation Center

UC Berkeley Institute of Transportation Studies

UC Irvine Institute of Transportation Studies

UCLA Institute of Transportation Studies

UC Davis Institute of Transportation Studies