Parking problems persist, and increase in students doesn’t help

With only 650 parking spots open for 1,356 total students, new Security Chief Larry Rooney is open to any and all suggestions regarding the persistent campus squeeze. (Feel free to email him suggestions at lrooney@norwich.edu.)

Every year parking is a major gripe for students and Rooney is first to admit “it is an issue that needs to be better organized; one of the challenges we have to face with parking is that we will have to sit down and review all the issues of years past.” With well over 20 written citations and warnings on average per week, parking is a pressing matter, and Rooney feels it more than anyone in Norwich administration.

There are many possibilities that the NU staff are exploring to better the parking situation, including public transportation, carpooling, and designating specific parking spots, all as ways to decrease the number of cars on campus, Rooney said.Green Mountain Transit has buses which travel directly to Montpelier, which then run to Burlington. From Burlington and Montpelier, students are able to get on a bus to other cities or to the airport to return home after the semester and while on break.

“I think we should encourage less people to bring their cars and use local transportation,” Rooney said. “Green Mountain Transit has a network of buses that come through campus five times a day.” More people using public transportation would decrease the number of vehicles on campus, freeing up more spots for those who cannot use public transportation to reach Norwich.

The new Zipcars will allow students to rent a vehicle for a few hours up to a whole day, which may also decrease the number of cars needed on campus for students. But with only two available, it will not solve the parking issue immediately, although it is a step in the right direction, he said.
Rooney is also exploring possibilities of off-campus parking in various lots around the Northfield are that are regularly open. This could increase the available locations for students to park vehicles but it will force students to walk from town to campus, possibly creating new issues.

The dean of students, Martha Mathis, also has concerns with the parking situation on campus.
“What I would recommend is more handicap accessible parking,” Mathis said. There are handicap parking spots outside most buildings but there are not enough if multiple people with a handicap are trying to park in the same area, forcing them to travel extended distances.
Adding more handicap spots, however, will take away from the overall amount of available parking for other students and faculty.

The large size of the freshman class is only going to make things worse.
“Currently we do not allow first year students to park on campus,” Mathis mentioned. With the increase of incoming freshmen, the issue is expected to continue to grow.
During the spring and summer, parking is not as hectic as the winter time because during the warm months the only frustrations are finding a spot and having to walk.
“Because our weather can be extreme, the time that worries me the most is winter,” Mathis said. Winter raises issues of plowing and where the lines are in the lots.
Because the parking lines are not always visible during the winter, people sometimes take up multiple spots and this shrinks the number of parking spots available on campus. Winter brings on additional concerns for safety, as well as concern for the parking issue, according to Mathis.

Many students are hoping that Norwich will take steps to build a parking garage. It would be the most effective way to minimize the required space needed to maximize the total number of parking spots on campus. With the university’s bicentennial drawing near many are wondering if there is hope for any plans as part of major construction ahead.
However, Mathis said a new parking garage would need to be voted on by the board of trustees and donors would have to be found to finance the construction before any action could take place. Even if a garage was approved by the board and was funded, it is not likely the campus would see it built anytime soon with the construction of Ainsworth Hall on the way and other projects already lined up.

That leaves students like Michelle Araya, a senior nursing major from Fernley, Nevada, thinking the parking issue will only “continue to grow” with the incoming freshmen. Although they will not be able to park on campus until next year, the large freshmen class is going to add to the stressful parking situation.
“The class coming in will be larger than the class leaving,” Araya said. “When they can park on campus there will be even more vehicles then there already are.”
The commuter parking lot is the smallest parking lot on campus and the lot that is the closest to capacity on a daily basis, according to Araya. If the commuter lot is full, Araya, like other commuters, has to park at Kreitzberg Arena parking lot at the back of campus.

Parking at Kreitzberg is nearly a 10-minute uphill walk to class that leaves students slightly winded and frustrated before their academic day has even started, according to Araya. Another option is to park in the Plumley Armory lot, but the walk to classes is just as far uphill as the walk from Kreitzberg.
Araya said she felt “designated individual parking spots” or “a timed parking system” were a legitimate way to decrease the parking issue, if not do away with it entirely. Designated individual parking spots would ensure everyone has a location to park and a timed parking system would allow students to share a spot easily.

It is a practical idea, but Rooney sees issues with it. “I don’t know if that would work. What happens when you come back and another student is in your spot?” said Rooney. It would cause people to get angry and take another person’s spot, essentially doing nothing for the situation at hand.
Mathis believes that “if the student affairs committee raised the issue a little higher up” it would get the attention of the board and cause them to take action. Students taking initiative would be a strong sign for the student affairs committee to also take action. But the student body cannot raise enough money to build a functioning parking garage on campus, which remains a major issue.

With 650 out of the 1,356 parking spots being specifically for students, faculty and staff are left with the remainder after handicap spots and service spots are designated, according to Rooney. English Professor Kathleen McDonald said that parking has been an issue “since I’ve been here, 12 years.”
Along with Araya, faculty and staff are mostly concerned with having to walk across campus to get to their offices, while carrying all of their supplies, according to McDonald. Both students and faculty have similar frustrations with the parking situation.
She noted the increase in students has also required an increase in staff which adds even more people on campus looking for parking. “In the English department alone I have had to hire ten new adjuncts just to cover the English 101 classes,” McDonald said. With very limited spots for faculty at Webb, the increase in staff will create even less space.
Despite not having to teach until 9:30 a.m. McDonald tries to be in at 7:45 a.m. just to find parking, because “at quarter of eight you can find parking but by nine you are just driving around.”

The problem has grown so out of control that McDonald noticed that nearly any given day “people are parking in non-legal spots; up on the sides or any grassy area they think they won’t get hit.” With the parking problem continuing to grow with no end in sight, people are parking wherever they can fit a vehicle.

The only logical solution to truly fix the problem is to build a parking garage, according to McDonald. “It would be a much larger undertaking than simply clearing a lot somewhere and pave it over,” she admits, but it would be the best way to use the least space in order to maximize parking spots on campus.
Students like Araya have gotten to the point where they are simply wishing there was a reliable and convenient plan for campus parking. The image of campus that Norwich creates is important, but “we need to decide whether we are more concerned with maintaining the scenery or being practical,” said McDonald.

Comments

  1. I like how you mentioned that parking can be increased when people carpool more than driving by themselves. This makes sense because there will be less cars in the parking lot overall. I would like to make sure that I contribute myself in this cause and start to carpool more frequently.

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