It is a Wednesday morning, and a student is searching for a parking space, with 30 minutes to spare before her class starts. After searching for a spot in the Beard and subsequently Collins garages, she had no such luck in being able to park. Having no other option, she resorted to using one of the few pay-by-spaces available in the garage to avoid adding even more of a risk to being late to her first class of the day.
This example of Savannah Carter, a junior majoring in cell and molecular biology, is one of the great debates among university officials and students. It is over the ability of students to find a parking spot in a punctual manner remotely near their destination.
“It has been really bugging me, because I am tired of paying $180 for a parking permit and then having to wind up paying for pay-by-space parking anyway,” Carter said.
Aaron Nichols, the assistant director of administrative services, said based on a 2016 utilization count study, peak days and times have at most only 84 percent of parking spaces filled.
Carter said this has been the worst year so far for not being able to find a parking space since she became a student.
“My freshman year was far better, most likely because freshmen were required to live on campus at the time, so there may have been less cars on the roads,” Carter said.
Carter also said the sign indicating whether the garage is full or not was not present when she entered the fully occupied structures.
In regard to how the signage is monitored and maintained, Nichols said, “depending upon what happens during a given shift, parking levels are checked one or more times per hour.”
Nithin Varghese, a senior majoring in engineering, said if another parking garage were to be built, it would alleviate a large amount of stress from his daily routine before attending class.
Lauren George, a senior majoring in public health echoed Varghese’s point and said, “I have never experienced issues parking like I have the last two weeks.”
There is a balance between the cost of building new garages and the cost of parking permits.
“In order to build such structures, since they are self-funded, the cost of permits would have to increase in order to support the construction,” Nichols said.
As of Aug. 29, 1,320 Gold Zone spaces were available and 1,114 passes had been sold to faculty and staff. Nichols said permits are continually sold as the school year progresses. In the last fiscal year, which ended June 30, 1,543 Gold Zone permits were sold for 1,320 spaces.
“If preferred parking, like gold zone spots, was not an option, then students would have more opportunities to park where they need to in order to get to class on time,” said Samantha Hall, a sophomore majoring in mass communications.
Varghese also said he does not believe gold zones should even be an option for parking on campus because they use too many spaces that could otherwise be occupied by students with S permits.
Nichols said the gold zone parking has elevated costs, which in turn helps to keep the student parking permit rates lower.
“We could do away with the gold zone and have more student spaces, but then everyone’s parking permit rates are going to go up, so again there is that balance that we are trying to maintain to keep things affordable and also provide ample parking for everyone,” Nichols said.
Though Student Body President, Moneer Kheireddine could not be reached for a comment concerning the parking situation students face day-to-day, he said at Tuesday’s Student Government Senate meeting, that SG does recognize parking is still a problem.
For many students, it is not that there isn’t parking at all, but that parking is full in the highly populated areas where they need to get to.
“There is always spots on the outer edges of campus like the Sun Dome or Park and Ride lots,” Valerie Rodriquez, a senior majoring in mass communications, said.
There are currently 2,597 spaces available for students in S-only lots, although there are other non-resident student parking spaces available in additional lot locations across campus. Nonetheless, this number is in contrast to the 18,240 active S permits sold to date.
“If I need to go to facilities there by the Marshal Center, I can drive around for 30 minutes looking for a parking spot, or I can walk an extra five minutes (from a different lot) and find a parking space faster,” Nichols said.