The New Parking Deal
Interview with John Blaisdell
In light of the recent amendments to the parking system on campus, I sat down with John Blaisdell, Safety & Security Director at Marist College, to figure out past problems with parking on campus and what prompted the current changes being made. We discussed potential impacts of Dyson renovations on parking availability and the collaboration with the Student Government Association, specifically how it might revise parking ticket policy.
MC: What have been some problems with the parking system at Marist College in the past?
JB: That’s an interesting question because it’s two-fold, really: one was that there was a compliance issue. We’ve always had enough parking on campus, so it is simply a compliance issue. At some level, students, and faculty, and staff know there is not, but we did for a couple of years audit in all of the parking lots five times a day. Another issue was that we were trying to dice the college campus up into small pieces. Clearly, a resident who lived in Upper West Cedar would get a permit for Upper West Cedar but could not bring their car on the other side of campus. Then, we were trying to take commuters and put them into McCann in the back. So I thought why don’t we open up the parking lots a little bit. Let’s start giving people more options and start making this more flexible.
MC: Could you give some examples of how you made the situation more flexible?
JB: We did a number of different things in terms of just looking at where we were assigning people, how we were assigning people. I wanted to present this pilot program that allowed to open this up a little bit, giving people the options that will meet their needs. Marist has a very dynamic campus in terms of projects and student movement. For example, Dyson is scheduled to be renovated, which means we are going to displace everybody who is in Dyson, displace to multiple places around campus: anywhere from Donnelly to 51 Fulton, depending on the location of the offices and classrooms.
MC: What are some new changes this year?
JB: As a commuter-student, you don't just have two lots, but now you have nine lots you could use for parking. As a residential student, you don't have only one lot but now have a dozen lots that you could park in. I didn't take anything away from anybody, so what your options were last year are the same options this year, plus additional places to park.
MC: What are some of the responses you have been getting from students, faculty and staff?
JB: Mostly, people said that they like it, or “I appreciate the options.” I think I had one person who said that the parking spot they usually park in is no longer available; another person mentioned a general statement, “I don’t think this will work.” Time will tell. We will continue to do audits to see what the compliance looks like.
MC: How are you planning to amend the parking ticket system? How is the Student Government Association involved in this process?
JB: Last year, parking fines went up because of the benchmark where we were in terms of other institutions. We found that we were way below the cost. Plus, we were trying to change behavior, so the parking fees did go up. I need to work with Student Government because they hear the appeals. The Student Government and the appeals group gets everything that comes in: they bypass safety and security, and they bypass me. I want to have a good relationship with the appeals group so that I could inquire about the concerns, perhaps a particular parking area or a specific spot. Then we could figure out how to resolve the issue.
MC: What would be an alternative option, instead of giving out a parking ticket?
JB: I think it should be a case-by-case basis. If there is a student who can't afford a parking ticket, I would be happy to work with the student. Every student that receives a parking ticket, their situation is different: some students receive 20-30 parking tickets: you have been doing something that you shouldn't have been doing. In a different case of a student who gets 1-2 parking tickets but can't afford them, I am happy to work with them.