December 8, 2016

A plea for a UC parking garage

I am a commuter student. Like all commuter students, I struggle with parking. It amazes me how many students complain about parking, yet nothing changes.

I normally arrive to school 15 to 20 minutes before my class starts, which should be plenty of time to find a parking spot. I drive back and forth between the University Center (UC) lot and the Maria Hall lot until a spot opens up. Although I get to school early, I cannot even count how many times I have been late to class because I can not find a place to park.

GRAPHIC BY: Amber Williams

GRAPHIC BY: Amber Williams

In fact, I have even completely missed class because I could not find a place to park. This includes searching the parking garage from top to bottom as well as every parking lot on campus. Every single spot was taken, and the entire top floor of the garage was blocked off. I drove around for a solid 35 minutes (which was well into my class time) until I had no other option but to give up and go home. I left campus and missed class entirely. I knew if I had parked somewhere I was not supposed to (“no parking” zones, reserved spots, visitor parking), I would get a ticket.

Students paid $155 for parking passes this academic year. Paying that money should guarantee us a parking spot. You should never have to arrive late to class (or miss class entirely) because of parking when you have paid $155 to park. That is ridiculous. Not to mention the money students are already paying to go to Webster in the first place.

Webster’s website states “we understand that parking on campus can sometimes be frustrating” and then gives three tips to combat this problem. They suggest arriving to campus 30 minutes before your class starts, parking in the parking garage, and “looking on the bright side.”

First, arriving to campus 30 minutes before class is not always plausible because many students – myself included – come to campus straight from work, especially for evening classes. Plus, when I do not come from work and already come to school 20 minutes before class, I do not think an extra 10 minutes is going to make a difference when there are zero parking spaces available.

Second, parking in the garage is not always an option. As I said before, the parking garage has been entirely full before, and many times the top floor is blocked off.

Third, “look on the bright side” is not a valid tip for combating the parking issue.

I have three tips of my own for Webster on how to fix this problem.

First, stop spending money on other campuses and focus on the home campus instead. My suggestion is to turn the UC lot into a parking garage. According to Webster’s library website, the current parking garage cost $6.5 million when it was built in 2001. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics inflation calculator, that is about $8.7 million today. We do not even need the UC parking garage to be as big as our current one (675 spaces). Make it half that big, spend half the money (which would cost about $4.35 million).

The renovated Webster Gateway campus in the Arcade Building that just opened was estimated to cost $116 million, with Webster contributing around $6.1 million, according to an article published in the last issue of The Journal. That is more money than it would cost to build a parking garage in the UC. Webster should have invested that money in a parking garage, not in renovating a building that is not on the home campus.

My second suggestion is that if there is not going to be a UC parking garage built or any other additional parking, then parking passes should be free to students. We have to deal with all the issues that come along with parking, and we have to pay to suffer through them. According to Maryville University’s website, parking passes are free to their students. Take note, Webster.

My final suggestion is that teachers need to be forgiving of tardies for commuter students. The last thing a student wants is a tardy after they have been driving around for 30 minutes before class to find a parking spot.

There will be no end to this vicious parking cycle unless the university steps in to fix it. The students can not find a valid solution they can do on their own. The only real solutions must come from the university. Webster wants to enroll more students, but the truth is, more students are not going to come here if they can not even find a place to park.

Webster administration claims to put students first, but they obviously have not been listening to them complain about parking, or they would have fixed the problem by now. So I am sorry kids, there is no UC parking garage and you might have to miss class, but thank goodness the Arcade Building was renovated.

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