Parking concerns addressed
Students received an e-mail survey from Interim Dean of Students Bill Stackman last week asking them to complete a brief survey concerning automobile use on campus. The survey is part of a larger effort to address parking woes expressed by members of the College and town communities alike. While students gripe about the lack of parking spaces, especially within the immediate vicinity of their classes and dorms, local business owners complain about students monopolizing parking spaces intended for patrons.
“There are students parking for two and three weeks at a time on public streets in spaces intended for business patrons,” Associate Director of Facilities Planning Sal Filardi said.
This past year a committee comprised of College and town officials was formed to address parking. Currently students can purchase a permit to park in certain parking lots for $60 per year. The committee is considering changing the system so that each student would instead be assigned a specific spot.
There are currently around 450 students with parking permits. There are many legal parking spaces where these students could park without cutting into the spaces intended for business patrons, according to Director of the office of Safety and Security Bob Jones.
“The problem arises,” Jones said “from the fact that “the [students] want to park as conveniently for them. Parking, say at Phillips Gym up there, you’re talking about maybe a 10 minute walk from there to any dorm or any classroom. But people don’t want to do that, they want to park in Finney lot or any of those lots around there.”
In addition to assigning students specific parking spaces, expanding existing parking lots is the most probable alternative. Another option would be to build additional parking lots on the periphery of campus. However, students tend not to use the parking lots further away, especially if they are able to park closer for free.
Junior Erin Brazelle commutes every day from Cleveland. During her first two years, Brazelle purchased a permit.. However, this year Brazelle chose to save her money.
“It’s the cost and also the lots that I would park in now are always full,” Brazelle said. She usually parks on the east side of Tappan Square or by the Science Center, where she leaves her car all day.
“Before, I lived in Tank and the lot over there behind the art area always had a couple of spots, but it’s not worth paying for when I can park closer than that for free,” she said.
“If there were spots over here by Dascomb and that parking lot or in a couple of other student parking lots I probably would pay for a permit. It’s more convenient for me to not pay and park closer.”
Some colleges run shuttles that transport students from satellite parking lots to the center of campus. However, committee members agree that such a system is not currently a viable option financially. Bill Jindra, Vice Chair of the Oberlin City Council and a member of the committee, suggests that perhaps free parking permits could be issued to students willing to park in the more removed parking lots.
As few students utilize the farther parking lots in existence, Jindra says he would be hesitant to pave over grassy areas. The College and the town are already dealing with a very small amount of space and while everyone wants the space to park, no one wants a parking lot or garage built in their backyard.
The possibility of building a parking garage has even come up but such a project is highly improbable. “When you build a parking garage a single space costs $20,000. If you have 200 parking spaces you can see what the cost would be,” Jones said.
Currently, there is no cap on the number of students who have cars on campus. Similarly, students are not required to notify the College that they plan on bringing a car to campus, although the school does discourage it. The possibility of limiting the number of first years, sophomores and so forth who are allowed to have cars on campus, or possibly forbidding underclassmen from having cars on campus altogether, has also been raised, however such a measure is fairly unlikely.
“When you get into selecting who will bring cars, it gets into a marketing issue because other colleges compete with this college,” Jones said. “Let’s say if you were going to apply for Oberlin and Oberlin said ‘No, you can’t bring a car,’ and you go to Kenyon and Kenyon says ‘Well, sure you can bring a car,’ where would you go, you know?”