Over this past summer, the removal of premium parking was announced and students at College of DuPage finally had hope come the first week of school this fall. It was thought that the elimination of reserved parking spots close to the buildings would make parking quicker, easier, and fair for all students. We were wrong.
It’s not that the school didn’t try to accomplish this. During this past spring semester, an email survey concerning parking issues was sent to faculty. The survey results, in addition to any other research, led the administration to believe that premium parking was not beneficial for the school and those spaces should be added to the general parking pool. It was decided that it was unfair to charge students for better parking when the school already has a considerably large bank balance. By removing the option of purchasing premium parking passes, the playing field was hypothetically leveled for everyone. All student campus parking is now first come, first served, and those who arrive late have to deal with parking at the back of the lots. While this is all good in theory, its execution has proved otherwise.
The reality of parking at COD is far less simple than this “first come, first served” ideology. Fact is, the lots fill up completely around 10 a.m. Those who arrive earlier get a parking spot, but students with classes starting later in the morning end up with nothing. Even with student enrollment down and thus less vehicles, what results is a mess of backed up cars circling the lots for as long as an hour, battling over one or two parking spots or waiting for someone to leave. Inevitably, many of these students end up late for their classes, and some even park illegally in their desperation.
This same scenario has played out in years past when premium parking was still available; removing that option hasn’t seemed to change anything. The playing field may now be level, but that doesn’t do much good when the playing field is a nightmare for everyone. As stated before, it’s not that the school didn’t put in the effort to try to fix the parking problem on campus. Their solution just wasn’t enough.
Over the course of the past year or so, this issue seemed to be at the forefront of the administration’s to-do list. Along with eliminating the option for premium parking, last winter a free shuttle system, the Chaparral Express, was implemented so that students who parked in the farthest lots could get to and from the various campus buildings without walking in the cold. The Chaparral Express now runs during the fall semester as well, aiding students in getting to class on time despite the parking chaos.
One problem with the shuttle is that it only runs until 2 p.m., leaving students to fend for themselves after later classes. There’s also the issue of students not being aware of the shuttle’s existence or where to find it. A great idea does nothing if no one knows about it, and there are typically only a few students riding the shuttle at a time. The Chaparral Express was a smart move on the administration’s part, but now it’s time to offer more.
We need additional parking options. It’s as simple as that. The solution, however, isn’t quite as easy, but it is necessary. As a commuter college, there is no excuse for the level of difficulty involved in the process of finding a single parking spot on campus. One potential solution could be the creation of a scheduled parking plan. Essentially, COD could limit the amount of students allowed to take classes during each of the morning, afternoon, and night sessions based on how many parking spots are available on campus. This way, there would be a guaranteed, easy to access parking spot for every student at any given time, eliminating the current difficulties students are facing. Additional parking lots, more shuttles, underground parking, or a parking garage are also possible options, but as with any major change, there is a cost. For example, limiting when students can take classes would put many students with inflexible schedules at a disadvantage. Adding more parking lots means paving over more of our beautiful campus and, in doing so, hurting the environment. Underground parking or a parking garage wouldn’t be as detrimental to the Earth, but it would be extremely detrimental to our school’s budget.
There is no right decision. There is no obvious answer to the parking problem because no matter what is done to fix it, issues will arise. However, the administration has to weigh its options and make a move. Doing something will always be better than doing nothing. Removing premium parking was a start; granted, it didn’t help much, but at least we now know that more has to be done, and this is the time to do it.