by Christie Wisniewski
Hood College introduced a new parking plan just in time for the 2017 fall semester, but some students are less than pleased. All members of the Hood community were required to obtain a parking sticker classifying themselves as faculty, commuter, or resident starting August 1. These stickers have rendered the original parking hangtags useless unless they include one of the new stickers.
In addition to the classification stickers, there are new parking designation signs around campus. Certain rows are labeled for residents, while others are for faculty, visitors, or commuters. Unfortunately, many students have found that this parking plan has worsened the already-difficult parking situation.
“It’s absolutely worse for everyone,” said Michelle Shedd, a commuter. “Not only is parking worse for commuters, but faculty are mad too…Literally no one benefits from the new parking structure.”
She went on to explain that some of her professors have given up trying to find a designated “faculty” spot and are now parking on side streets alongside students.
According to Dean Olivia White, the Department of Campus Safety assessed all of the spaces on campus, compiled data on the ratio of parking spaces needed per student, and determined parking space assignments from that data.
“Spaces were… assigned based on need and proximity to specific buildings,” she said. “For example, commuter students were allocated spaces near academic buildings and residential students were allocated spaces near resident halls.”
The parking plan was developed with the input of campus groups such as the SGA, Commuter Council, and Staff Council, and the final plan was approved by the Senior Team.
Trouble for commuters
Commuters seem to be having an especially hard time with the new parking plan and express exasperation that Hood doesn’t seem to keep their commuters in mind.
“I feel like Hood doesn’t care about their commuters,” said Natalie Kendall, a Hood senior and commuter. “There seem to be way more spots for residents and faculty than commuters.”
According to Kendall, the amount of spaces is just the tip of the iceberg for parking frustrations. She drives a large truck to school every day, and has found that parking spaces are too small to safely park a vehicle larger than a sedan. Her truck has already been backed into once this semester.
“I understand that we have limited room, but I feel like the residents…are getting special priority,” she said. “It would be smarter to designate more commuter parking closer to campus and resident parking farther away. Commuters have to drive to school every day and find a parking spot every day. Residents don’t have to move their cars at all unless they have to go somewhere. It just doesn’t make sense. Why do they get special treatment?”
Another commuter student, Bailey May, feels that not only is the parking inconvenient, it’s confusing. Certain lots aren’t wholly designated to faculty or students; sometimes there will be one or two rows of a whole lot designated to residents, then another row nearby designated to commuters, and some students find this hard to memorize.
In a reply to Kendall’s comment, May said “I second feeling uncared about as a commuter.”
In the beginning of the semester, a sewer line from Smith Hall broke, which required a pipe replacement. This work was completed in mid-September and all effected parking has been restored for use, but this construction caused an issue for many, including May who tripped in the construction zone and hairline fractured her foot.
The construction zone temporarily discontinued use of the parking spots behind Smith Hall, as well as some spaces that were affected by pipe replacement. Some construction equipment and trailers were stored in parking spaces as well, which drastically cut the number of available spaces.
Dean White commented that to date, there have been four or five parking complaints brought to the attention of Campus Safety, and all of those complaints were made by commuters who stated that there were not enough spaces for their use but ample spaces for residents and faculty/staff.
“In response, adjustments to the plan have been made to provide additional spaces for commuter students,” White said.
However, commuters aren’t the only ones who have a beef with parking. Residents, such as Emily Kefauver, find the new parking plan to be irritating.
Residents, alumni comment on issue
“I can tell you, it’s not much better for residents,” said Kefauver, who works off campus and has to move her car around several times a week, but can’t find resident spaces at the time she gets back from work.
“The only way I could possibly benefit from this new parking idea is if I get a parking spot in a resident spot and literally leave my car there for the next 3 months,” she said. “If I go to move it, I’ll have no options when I come back. Nearly the entire parking lot directly outside of my dorm is now designated to commuters, so I can barely even use that. I can’t even imagine having to commute every single day.”
Hood alumni recall the parking issue from their time at Hood, too. Both Nikki Frock, class of 2015, and CJ Blick, class of 2017, were commuters during their time at Hood.
“[Parking] was a huge, annoying issue as a commuter,” Frock recalled.
Blick struggled with Kendall’s problem as well. “Very few” spots in the commuter lot could accommodate her truck.
“The issue of available parking will not be solved with tickets,” Blick said. “Hood has outgrown her modest beginnings and is in need of a real solution. Perhaps students would benefit from a shuttle system providing access to downtown parking garages. Another possibility could be leasing some spots from the hospital garage for faculty.”
According to White, the spaces allotted to each category are as follows:
Commuters – 175
Residents – 225
Faculty/Staff – 149
Visitors – 13
Contractors – 9
General Parking – 45
There is some talk of adding more parking lots in the next few semesters. The Campus Master Plan includes new parking lots based on “anticipated construction projects,” according to White, who also mentioned that the Office of Campus Safety welcomes feedback on the current parking plan and will make adjustments as needed.