Students struggle with parking on campus

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Parking on Campus. Photo by Francesca Norman

For the first time since spring 2020, the University of Dallas community has returned to in person learning. Some students have been met with fewer parking spaces and more parking tickets. The UD Police chief, Russell Greene, says there has been an increase in parking tickets. 

Class of 2021 graduate Grace Burleigh, who is pursuing her M.A. in English, described the state of parking on campus. “It’s rather a professional sport, trying to find a parking spot,” she said.

This semester marks the enrollment of 487 students in the class of 2025, UD’s largest ever, and the university currently enrolls more than 1,500 undergraduate students. UD also enrolled 1,042 graduate students and employed 150 full-time faculty members as of fall 2020. It is possible that the apparent shortage of parking space is due to the increase in the student population.

Greene says that though there has been an increase in tickets, “74% of the tickets written by the UDPD are for ‘no permit’ and most get dismissed on purchase of the parking pass. The balance are for parking in the fire lane, parking in handicapped, blocking a driveway and students parking in a visitor parking space.”

There are approximately 1,100 parking spaces available on UD’s campus according to Greene. Permits to park on campus cost $125 per year, the fee for failure to display a valid permit is $40, the fee for parking in a fire zone is $60, the fee for parking in a handicap space is $100, and parking in a reserved space carries a fee of $40. 

Parking prices at UD are relatively inexpensive and have not been raised recently. Greene said, “We haven’t raised the parking rates in years, it’s not a revenue source.” 

Greene also noted that the UDPD expects to issue as many parking passes this year as it did last year. “We are on pace to duplicate last year’s parking pass total. We do not predict an increase in the amount sold,” he said.

In comparison, the University of Texas at Dallas, located in Richardson, Texas, charges an average of $240 for oncampus parking through fall and spring semesters. The University of North Texas in Denton charges $275 per year for on campus parking. 

Many students seem to be unsure of why the UDPD writes parking tickets at all. Greene was able to provide an example of the importance of managing parking on campus. 

“People park where they’re not supposed to; they park in the fire lane. We just had another fire inspection here from the Irving Fire Department, so if we didn’t have control of the parking, we wouldn’t have control of the handicap. If you’re handicapped, you want to be able to park as close as [possible],” Greene said. 

Greene emphasized that regulating parking is important for reasons that are generally not visible. He said, “We found, a couple times, people would park in the pastor’s parking, which is next to the church and he comes in just in time to go to do the Mass and somebody is parked there so we’re not in favor of that.”

Jessica Pratt, a senior theology major who commutes, said that she parks on campus two to three times per week, and although she is experiencing difficulty finding a parking space, she does not consider it a serious issue.

“I think it’s just kind of natural because there are more and more students and larger classes coming up. There’s going to be more cars,” she said. “I’ve just been trying to walk to campus.”

Not every student is able to walk to campus, however. Spencer Magee, a senior politics major who commutes from about eight minutes away, said, “I only really have a problem with parking when it comes to trying to get to my classes at SB Hall . . . they’ll stage a lot of their materials in that parking lot that’s really close to SB Hall so that eats up a lot of space.”

Magee also described the difficulty with switching between two cars while only ever parking one at a time on campus. 

“I have two cars between my wife and I, and we swap cars. So, I don’t think it would be necessarily fair to have to buy two individual parking passes for each vehicle. I’d rather just have maybe one I can display and I think that would be more fair. Otherwise I’m buying two and realistically it’s the same number of cars being on campus,” he said.

Burleigh expressed similar frustration with the difficulty she experiences when trying to make it to class on time. 

She said, “I have to drive all the way towards Braniff or SB to find something, and even then, it’s towards the back where maintenance, I assume, parks their cars as well. It is an inconvenience for getting to class because if it happens on such a consistent basis, your professors just think you’re truant, which is frustrating as a grad student because you’re like, no, I’m here for this specifically I’m not just an undergrad who wants to skip.” 

Charlie LeBlanc, a junior economics major living on campus, received her first parking ticket this semester, but it was waived when she purchased a parking permit. LeBlanc has had some difficulty with parking on campus, as well.

“I live in Clark so I find that it is often hard to get a parking spot in the garage, I generally have to park outside,” she said. 

LeBlanc also recounted a positive experience she had with parking on campus over the last summer. She said, “Instead of renting a storage unit this summer I actually put all my things in my car, bought a parking pass for the summer, and left my car in the garage below Clark for three months. Nothing was stolen and my car was in great shape when I got back!”

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