Parking problems plague NU

WEb NewParking coverAs the number of students at Norwich has grown, the daily scramble for parking spaces has become one of the major irritants for resident and commuter students alike. But don’t expect a solution soon – which means, complaining about parking is one thing almost everyone at Norwich can agree on.
“I am late to classes almost daily for not finding a spot, after driving around to multiple lots looking for a spot,” said Nicholas Roop, 24, a senior business management major from Fort Meade, Fla., who commutes from Burlington, Vt.. He added that “finding a spot can take me between 5 to 15 minutes, and at times even upwards of 20.”
“If I don’t show up early enough and plan that into my schedule (finding a parking spot) then yeah, I will be late for my class,” said Roop.
Security is strict in enforcing parking and it is very common to get towed or find a ticket on your windshield, according to Roop.
That sort of complaint is common around campus, whether corps or civilian, resident or commuter.
“I can’t count the number of times I have had to park on the hill at the back of the commuter lot in order to make my own spot,” said Cameo Lamb, 22, a senior communications major who commutes from Barre, Vt.
“You learn tricks like parking in ‘illegal’ spaces in order to get to class on time and moving your car right after, or parking in the spots that are patrolled by Northfield instead of security because their tickets are $10 instead of $95,” said Lamb. “I started creatively thinking after getting two tickets last year.”
“It’s not just about getting to school early enough to get a parking space,” she said, “parent and alumni weekends, Regimental Ball weekend, and events like that leave even less parking spots from the extra flow of people.”
Though students complain extensively about the limited spots for parking, Norwich’s chief of security Michael P. Abraham, who oversees parking, says there are enough spaces and the issue is more where they are located.
“It’s quite tight, but as of right now if everybody were to park in a proper spot there’s enough space,” said Abraham.
“The commuters don’t want to walk,” he said, which causes a lot of the issues with parking for commuting students.
The total number of parking spaces on campus is 1,375, according to Abraham; the total for commuter parking spots is 265 and residents have 635 parking spots available. Abraham concedes that since the expansion of the number of civilian students living on campus in dorms, parking has gotten tighter. Norwich’s undergrad enrollment now is around 2,300.
“A couple of years ago we used to have over 100 free spots, even though they were far and quite a walk away from campus” said Abraham. “Now there is not because you have so many more resident students.”
“You will not find a spot in the commuter lot unless you get there well before eight in the morning, or if you are lucky, to find a few spots after 12 noon,” said Ryan McCarthy, 21, a senior communications major from Medford, Mass., who commutes from Northfield.
Talk to Norwich students and they’ll tell you it gets a lot worse when the snow flies. “During the winter it is even worse because people park three rows deep and it is almost impossible to get in between the cars in order to find a spot” said Roop. “The school does a very poor job plowing the lots, most spots are impossible to see, which leads to an ineffective use of space.”
Another issue with unplowed parking lots is “slipping and falling,” according to Roop, who has injured himself several times walking to and from his car.
“The lots are so bad in the winter that my car has gotten stuck, I have almost fishtailed into someone, and it’s impossible to maneuver around all the bad parking of other vehicles,” Lamb agreed.
The limited space for parking on campus has made it an inconvenience for residential students to find parking space near their dorms as well.
“Honestly, not finding a spot has been the hardest part about the parking problem,” said Nathan Daniel Collins, 24, a sophomore nursing major from Ripon, Calif. “There are not enough parking spaces for all the students living in Dalrymple Hall and South Hall,” he said.
McCarthy agreed. “Last year as a junior I lived in South Hall, and there was never any parking spaces up there, so as a civilian you would have to park in the back of D lot and walk all the way back to South Hall,” he said.
“The worst part is not getting the ticket. The worst part is knowing there’s nowhere else to park, so you accept taking the risk to get a ticket. We’re not dumb, we know we’re not supposed to park there, but all the places you’re supposed to park are full,” he said.
The Student Motor Vehicle Rules and Regulation handbook that is given out whenever a student registers their vehicle lists all of the fees and fines that students face when they want to keep a car on campus, such as the $100 fee for keeping a car on campus for an academic year, and the $30 fine for parking. Fines can be levied and that may include the termination of vehicle registrations of second-time student offenders. However, students are allowed to file an appeal to the security department within 15 days of their violation.
From the beginning of the 2015 fall semester to now, around $8,805 in tickets have been issued, with only 33 tows. The average of tows from the past three years is 212, while the average revenue from tickets is $38,481. Last year the total amount of fines was $35,155.
Those figures do not include any fines assessed on faculty; faculty and staff members are not charged for any parking violations, but rather handled as a disciplinary action, Abraham said.
“Following a number of repeat offenses, a letter is sent to the faculty/staff person, their supervisor and human resources,” he said. “A letter is sent after the issuance of three tickets, or when the problem is deemed habitual.”
According to Abraham, the money from parking tickets is used for improvements to the parking lots and roads and not for general purposes.
Abraham suggests students try some of the less used lots. There are always open spots right in the Plumley Armory parking lot, but no one wants to walk the distance, he added. His staff is not out to get students. “I gave every student that has parked improperly in a student lot a free ticket or warning for their first offense” said Abraham.
An additional factor in the changing parking situation is that Norwich built two additional civilian residence halls. While that has reduced the number of commuter students, with an increase in residents and decrease in commuters, it has destroyed the ebb and flow of cars coming and leaving, according to Abraham.
Students like Roop question why student registration for vehicles continues to rise, yet the administration at Norwich has not tackled the problem. One solution that has been suggested is making courtesy rides available and provided to students by the security department. However, long-term, it’s not going to be easy to solve the problem.
“The university understands this, but it’s tough to raise money and justify it for a parking lot,” said Abraham.
“Parking price should go up more,” suggested Abraham, which could affect students’ decision to bring a car to campus. “If it goes up more then perhaps more folks will keep their cars home.”
The parking crunch has led some enterprising students to make extra cash off the situation.
“I was making money last year by shoveling students’ cars for $10 dollars a vehicle, because they failed to plow the parking lots,” said McCarthy. “They would plow through the center which blocked all the cars by making 3-foot snow mounds behind each vehicle.” The school needs to come up with a better system to “make winter parking possible” if they want to keep raising parking prices, according to McCarthy.
Students at Norwich who are frustrated by the situation think the best solution is a parking garage. “I have spoken to many other colleagues, and we believe that a solution to the problem would be erecting a parking garage with multiple levels,” said Roop, adding that “not only would it provide more spaces, but it would take away the parking problems that occur in the winter.”
“My roommate is an architect major, and we were discussing the possibility of constructing a multi-level parking garage on Disney Field, because the basketball and volleyball courts can be relocated in many other places on campus,” said McCarthy.
“I believe that building a parking garage would be an excellent idea, and would keep snow off cars in the winter” agreed Collins. “It is a large inconvenience walking long distance in freezing cold.”
Joshua Baker, 20, a junior civil engineering major from Wilson, N.C., thinks a parking garage would be a great idea, but also thinks the obstacles with that solution would be getting funding and permits to build the structure. It seems that all the money currently being cycled through is going towards other renovations, he said.
The idea of a parking garage is not new at NU. According to comments on the unofficial NU Facebook, Overheard and Overseen at Norwich, the parking garage was an idea back in the early 90s, but nothing ever came of it.
Still, it’s clear from interviews that Norwich students wish to see a solution, or at least acknowledgment, of the issue – and a proposed plan to fix it.

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