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Parking raises problems for West Chester students

Prior to the start of the Fall 2018 semester, West Chester University announced that Parking Lot D outside of Lawrence Dining Hall would be placed under construction — effectively taking away 250 on-campus parking spots for both students and faculty. According to an e-mail sent out by the Department of Public Safety, the construction will last until at least 2020 and will encompass the creation of a brand new engineering building.

While some alternative arrangements have been made, many students have struggled to find parking on-campus, sometimes being forced to drive around lots for up to 30 minutes to find a spot, resulting in tardiness to their classes. During the first week of classes, there was an alleged grace period to allow students to obtain their parking permits. Still, multiple students received tickets for parking due to the lack of spaces.

Due to the influx of students complaining about the state of parking on campus, the university sent out an email informing students that South Campus’ Q Lot would always have open parking spots if none could be found on North Campus. As many student are familiar, South Campus is located over a mile away from the main campus and requires a 10-15 minute bus ride back to campus once you’ve parked.

The university sold this alternative parking lot as a convenient, time saving solution for both students and faculty. However, when put into practice  this idea is not as convenient as the university would lead you to believe.

One of our authors actually parked in Q Lot to test just how long it would take for him to get back to campus. Even if you get to the bus stop early, there are not enough buses available to guarantee you can get on one that won’t be filled. Many other students may be waiting at the stop before you, forcing you to wait for a second or third bus to finally make its way to you. Having to get to South Campus roughly 40 minutes before your class is a time consuming issue.

Stories about the lack of campus parking date back as far as 2004. Last year, the Quad featured a story headlined “Frustration Grows with Lack of Parking Availability.” According to the story, WCU had intentions to open up a new parking lot, but these plans never materialized. Instead, they took one away (Lot D). On top of that, every student was charged an additional $82 in their tuition as a “parking improvement” fee, which has raised some eyebrows amongst students.

Students must purchase a parking permit in order to park on campus. The passes cost $30, cash or check, and are non-refundable. If a student has earned over 30 credits, they are eligible to purchase a permit for the New Street Garage, priced at $200 per semester. There is also a Matlack Garage for both students and employees. These passes are $30 annually. Even with a pass there’s no guarantee you’ll find a spot — especially in the morning hours. The Sharpless Garage is exclusively for employees and costs $260 per semester. The Rec Center garage, which was previously shared by students and staff, is now exclusively for staff as well.

There are over 17,000 students attending West Chester University. The official website states that over 60 percent of them live off-campus. That’s over 10,000 students who need parking spaces. WCU’s website states that there are 5,000 available parking spots, however many of those are inconveniently located a mile away on South Campus or in overpriced parking garages that can range from $200-$300 per semester. Even with these options, that number doesn’t take into account how many of those spots are designated for faculty only. There are simply not enough parking spaces for the growing student/faculty population of West Chester University.

“It seems like WCU doesn’t care about the parking struggles because they are ticketing and towing students even though there literally aren’t enough spaces for the students,” said Kyle Zeserman, a 22-year-old commuter. Zeserman is in his second semester at West Chester after transferring from Drexel University last spring. When asked to compare the parking situations at the two schools, Zeserman replied, “The parking situation was better at Drexel because your pass was good for a specific lot and they didn’t sell more passes than spaces they have.” Zeserman clearly isn’t the only student frustrated with parking. In a survey of 35 random students, over 74 percent rated WCU’s on-campus parking 1 star out of 5.

While the lack of parking spots on campus is alarming, the university is exploring alternate options as they continue construction on lots C and D. Lot D, which is located right next to Lawrence Dining Hall, has approximately 250 spots, which equates to 7.5 percent of all North Campus parking spots. With this expected loss of parking spots in mind, school President Fiorentino put together a Strategic Transportation and Parking Task Force in November  2017. Along with this newly formed parking task force, the WCU Office of Sustainability is also looking into alternate commuting options for both students and faculty. Bradley Flamm, the director of sustainability on campus, was able to provide us with this statement on their goals for parking moving forward:

“The university is working to make it easier for everyone – students, faculty, staff, and visitors – to get to and from campus, whether they drive alone, carpool, take public transit, ride WCU shuttle buses, bike, or walk. By giving people lots of good commute choices, we’ll make the most efficient use of our resources, including our parking lots and garages, and make progress towards our goal of reducing the environmental impacts and carbon emissions from our commuting.”

We were also able to meet with Sandra Jones, the Director of Off Campus and Commuter Services, and she provided us with insight on some of the alternate ways to commute to campus. The university currently has a contract with Ride Amigos, a Rideshare matching assistance service that will help coordinate carpools for regular weekly commuting, special events and for student travel on weekends and breaks. There are specific spots that are reserved for students and staff who utilize Ride Amigos or who just carpool to campus in general. There’s also a new program called “Uptown Loop” which provides shuttle to several residential and commercial locations. Some of these locations include the Chester County Hospital and the Bradford Plaza Shopping Centers. The campus also provides a shuttle bus service that can take commuters to and from the SEPTA regional rail and satellite WCU campus buildings in Exton.

Students and faculty have been clamoring for improved parking for years now here at WCU. Hopefully, with the initiative of both the Sustainability Office and Parking Task Force, we will begin to see some real changes on the parking issue.

Brian Cass is a fourth-year student majoring in English and minoring in journalism.

Brianna Brito is an undeclared student with a minor in journalism.

Charles Brindley is a marketing major with a minor in journalism.

Ryan Bednash is a communication major with a minor in journalism.

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