Students are creatively mastering the art of parking safely in non-marked areas, while the administration searches for a way to relieve some of the parking pressure.
Plans include expanding the Gate Lot by 40 percent, which would add approximately 35 to 40 spots, according to Public Safety Director Dan Brown. Instead of paving, which would take more time, the plan is to lay down crushed rock to create an area for cars to park without worrying about excessive mud. Brown and Karen Maggio, Assistant Vice President of HMDS, hope to have to the expansion completed this semester.
Other construction includes the work right off the oval in the lower CPM parking lot. Over the summer the old dilapidated shed that sat on the space was torn down and the empty area has been utilized as a safe, unstriped space for a handful of cars to park. But the plan for that space is to centralize the on-campus golf carts with a charging station; while no official spots have ever existed in this space, drivers will find one less place for creative parking.
The construction, originally scheduled for Oct. 3, was postponed to Friday, Oct. 14, after Campus Facilities received complaints from staff and students over the timing. Brown said his suggestion included rescheduling the construction time during non-peak hours and said the reasons were “a bit selfish,” because of the hassle that would ensue for both drivers and Public Safety.
Student-news has served as a venue for students to vent their parking frustrations. Senior Tessa Robinette has been frequently posting about winter graduation plans, in addition to the parking issue.
“All of these things are connected,” Robinette said. She lists the recently expanded van schedule as related to the parking problem, as does Brown. The logic is that frustrations caused by an inability to feasibly leave campus, whether for commuting or errands, results in more students relying on cars and the parking spots they require. It is hoped that the new late van run can provide students with more options.
Drivers are anxious for the parking problem to be fixed as soon as possible, but Brown said that next semester is the earliest any permanent changes can be made. Alternatives to paving over the campus are few but desperately sought. Prevention is one alternative, Brown said, such as altering schedules to relieve parking crunch times when the majority of the Mills population needs to be on campus.
“I think they should look at the schedule of classes. Friday is pretty deserted,” Brown said.
Even immediate things such as permanent signs are taking longer than desired. Brown intends to place them in high-traffic areas, especially lots that might currently be considered nebulous, to better warn drivers about any restrictions. The strip of parking in front of Olney is one problematic area due to confusion over the residential classification. The signs will be color-coded according to permits, making identification quick and easy for both drivers and Public Safety.
Some students have taken to parking in spaces where there are no signs specifically disallowing it. Junior Diana Galbraith was ticketed for parking in one such area across from Ethel Moore.
“I wasn’t blocking any other vehicles or driveways, and there was plenty of room to drive safely around my car and on up the street,” she said.
On days when no other parking exists, this sort of creativity might be the only option for many drivers. Galbraith was one of many on student-news suggesting that students boycott parking tickets. “I have gotten positive feedback regarding the boycott idea, and even a few laughs. I’m quite serious about it,” she said.
But even drivers who park legally are sometimes wrongly ticketed. Senior Jennifer Ziock received a ticket she had to protest due to confusion over the Gate Lot.
Newly designated this semester as “Visitors Only,” the Gate Lot serves as the sole place on campus where regular visitors can park. The lot, however, is also open to commuter and residential permits. The restriction language resulted in a day when Public Safety ticketed non-visitors in the lot. Though the issue was resolved after half a day, Brown said, “it seemed to touch the whole campus.”
Ziock dreaded the task of appealing the ticket and said, “I know it’s going to be horrible.” Public Safety has yet to contact her with a decision on the appeal but she remains hopeful.
Wanting to resolve many of these issues, a transportation get-together to generate ideas and educate attendees on what options they have on the Mills campus is tentatively planned for the third week of October, led by Brown and Public Safety staff.