Although Thursday and Friday saw relatively uncongested parking lots, this week has been a return to sluggish lines of cars flashing hopeful blinkers in lot after jam-packed lot.
Although parking on the first week of classes is difficult every year, Public Information Officer Dan Robles gave insight as to how campus construction is making parking harder to find than it has been in the past.
“We see [the same parking] patterns that happen other years, but this year with the construction it’s been worse,” Robles said. “A lot [of the construction] out there was supposed to have been completed, but then there [were] rain delays and the construction guys are just trying to play catch-up.”
Construction isn’t the only negative factor in parking, though. The tendency for students to be oblivious to other lots on campus create major backups in the Student Center, Carlsen Center and Galileo’s Garden Parking Garage lots.
“What we see is a lot of people, as they come into the campus through the main entrance areas, figure, ‘I’ve got to park right here,’ not knowing that if they go around the backside [of campus], they may be parking actually closer to the buildings than they would be in the front,” Robles explained.
The college’s police department have been exploring ways to relieve the parking problem on campus, whether it be sending an email informing students about parking on the back end of campus, standing outside and directing students toward other lots, allowing students to park on the softball fields or giving up faculty-, police- and construction-only spaces for new students.
“We’re trying to help everybody,” Robles said. “We know kids’ pain and that their parents are paying for them to go here, and so we’re trying to give it up for them and encourage our staff to not park up on top of the parking garages and park farther back. I don’t even think president Sopchich is in his parking spot; I think he parks way off and lets other people into the spot. It’s just a team effort.”
“We’ve been out there pretty much full force trying to help guide students to different lots. We had an area on the back side of the south-east part of campus, probably 40 or 50 spaces, that was for faculty. We gave that up to the students, and now faculty park in another area.”
Aside from general frustration, there are other negatives to congested parking lots including a higher potential for car accidents as well as penalties for parking in reserved spots. While students get their footing, Robles said the police department have been giving students the benefit of the doubt when it comes to unlawful parking, opting to help and inform students rather than ticket them. Last week saw three minor fender-benders and a surprising lack of parking-related anger among students.
“What is so nice about all of this is that it seems like everybody is very patient,” Robles said. “Students were pretty darn patient [last week] and we didn’t have any road rage reports. So, even with all of this going on, we’ve been doing pretty good.”
As far as the cement mixing materials and other construction equipment taking up parking spots, Robles said the police department “understand and realize that and are trying to do the best [they] can.” Parking places along the Gymnasium lot have been opening day by day and more spots were opened today as construction workers removed cones and orange tape near the Student Center around 1 p.m. As far as student-oriented solutions, Robles suggests visiting parking lots around the back of campus or carpooling.
“What we thought about doing is encouraging, maybe for next semester, carpool,” Robles said. “Since we’re kind of a green college, how about, you know, encouraging the kids like, ‘Hey, maybe y’all can carpool and take classes together and make it a fun thing.’”
Overall, students are on their way to figuring out the best places to park on campus.
“Yesterday, I was out for several hours driving around and I saw that students are figuring it out,” Robles said. “They’re figuring, ‘okay, I’m going to have to walk, but I’m getting it now that if I park up here, I can cut through the Gym or the new [Career and Technical Education Center] building and I can get to where I’m going’… But, we’re there to help. We’re all about that and that’s what our chief wants from us. He wants us to be very productive and… serve the campus.”
Story by Samantha Joslin