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Campus parking problems plague colleges nationwide

By Aubrey Roff
On November 13, 2003

There is a universal problem that affects college campuses across the United States: Student parking.

The mere mention of the issue ignites controversy among resident students, commuter students, campus security and local police departments. As colleges expand their student body and begin to run short on space, parking availability is usually one of the first things to be sacrificed.

Schools often issue many more parking permits than available spaces. For example, at the University of Arkansas, 14,000 parking permits are issued, even though the campus boasts only 8,300 spaces. Auburn University in Alabama has 10,300 spaces for its 18,000 student, faculty and staff permits issued each year.

Marist College junior Sandra Proulx has had a car on campus for two years and is familiar with the problems of on-campus parking.

"In the townhouses I lived in last year [Gartland], you could never find a parking space," said Proulx. "There were either too many permits given out, or people illegally parked there all the time."

Although some schools work parking fees into tuition and other charges, many faculty, staff and students are forced to pay for parking permits up front. Large schools with limited parking charge especially high prices for both faculty and students. For example, parking at Duke University in North Carolina can cost almost $400. And parking permits at St. John's University in Jamaica, New York, range from $50 to $350.

In addition to the major revenue collected by those institutions that charge for parking permits, colleges and universities also collect upwards of millions of dollars in parking tickets, which are used to maintain the parking lots and facilities.

Campuses across the nation are reconfiguring their parking systems, and most of the changes involve more restrictions for student drivers. But even though students tend to be the ones most affected concerning parking restrictions, faculty members are being hurt by parking restrictions as well.

"It's difficult to do our jobs when there are no legal spaces to put our cars," said Janet Fairman, assistant research professor at the University of Maine at Orono.

Some urban colleges, such as Columbia University in New York City, do not even allow students to park on campus at all; permits are only issued to faculty and staff.

Edrys Erisnor, a supervisor of parking at Columbia University, explained their policy, which allows student parking only for night classes.

"We do not allow student parking in the daytime," said Erisnor. "They [students] would have to find their own parking on the street."

School administrators are struggling to find solutions to the ongoing problems. Due to the lack of space on most campuses, there is often no more room for parking lots.

In addition, some believe that numerous parking lots will take away from the appearance of the campus. Joseph Vetter is a Catholic priest who works at the Duke Chapel at Duke University and shares this viewpoint.

"It's a tough problem," said Vetter. "Duke is a beautiful campus and you can't turn it all into a parking lot."

Suggestions have also been made for campuses to build upward and add parking garages in order to combat the lack of space. Campus officials find fault with this solution due to an extreme price increase. One space in a conventional parking lot costs approximately $2,000 to build and maintain, whereas a spot in a parking garage can cost anywhere from $13,000 to $15,000.

Students are also advised to utilize the bus systems in larger cities in order to get to their classes. But for many college students who grew up in the suburbs where using cars was the norm, public transportation is not typically an appealing option.

Students are also being directed, quite simply, to walk. Whether it's from distant parking lots or their residence on campus, many believe that the parking debates are simply due to the students' refusal to walk a little extra to class. But this is hard to accept for people that live a significant distance from campus.

Elizabeth Sofield, a Marist College junior, resides in the Upper West Cedar Townhouses.

"We live so far from the academic buildings that Upper West Cedar should be considered off-campus housing," said Sofield. "We should be given commuter permits to park closer to our classes."

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