Numbers Reveal On-Campus Parking is Oversold

It’s negative 10 degrees and the wind is howling. You just left work and have only 15 minutes to make it to class. As you pull up to the T-lots, you search for a place to park. Your heart starts to pound as you realize there is nothing available.

It’s now five minutes until your class starts and you have been looping around the lot several times. You give in and head over to the pay lot near the Union only to find the same problem — no spots. Alas, you see someone pull away, and you race others to the coveted spot.

In order to save money, you put the bare minimum in the meter, hoping that your class gets out in time. After class, you walk up to your car and see that white ticket on your windshield. You were five minutes late.

Defeated, you rush back to work and think about the additional $20 you have to pay because the lot you have a pass for was out of spots.

You are not the only one, for I too have faced this problem. I fear that this will only become more prevalent in the upcoming years. This will become our inevitable future as a push is made for more students to attend North Dakota State.

According to an article written by The Forum last October, President Dean Bresciani hopes to increase enrollment to 18,000 students. This is an increase of about 4,000 students.

NDSU is currently seeing one of its largest incoming freshman classes ever. It is clear that the university is growing, along with the metro area. Local high schools have been recently facing growing pains with rapidly increasing class sizes.

The university expects this to impact its numbers. “We expect continued strong interest in NDSU as a school of choice for our local high school seniors,” Provost Beth Ingram said. “As the number of local high school graduates increases, we predict a parallel increase in enrollment at NDSU.”

I decided dig up the numbers to see just how “bad” parking really is. My biggest concern was the HR lot. I received an email a week before classes stating that 150 spots (it ended up being only 100) would be temporarily lost due to construction of a new dormitory.

I immediately wondered about the students who had already purchased their passes for the HR lot. It didn’t seem fair to have to pay for full price when other lots weren’t as competitive.

Turns out, there were still enough spots left for everybody. The HR pass, which includes the FA and R lots, is 100 percent sold. This means there will always be a spot, just maybe not the closest one.

However, once the new dormitory is completed there will be potentially 400 more students competing for these spots. Pete Zimmerman, associate director of facilities management, says there is a parking lot being built with 100 spaces near the softball field; however, it remains unclear how those spaces will be allotted.

Although parking is available in the HR and connected lots, other lots have been oversold by quite a bit. According to the parking office, NDSU has issued 5,921 parking permits to students for the first semester of the 2017 academic year, as of Sept. 14.

There are 6,016 parking spots available to students. This includes parking at the Fargodome, University Village and Niskanen, which aren’t on campus. If you included these spaces, parking seems fine at 98.4 percent capacity.

These numbers don’t reflect the reality of parking on campus though. If you take away off-campus parking, student parking is at 129.5 percent capacity.

The lots on NDSU’s main campus aren’t the only parking struggles I have heard about. After asking around, I discovered that Barry Hall tends to be a big problem.

Although Matbus frequently travels to Barry Hall, it doesn’t help the busy commuter.

“Mondays and Fridays I go to work, then class and then back to work again,” commuter Nick Sikorski said. “So if I get there late, street parking is picked over.”  Nick is studying strategic communication and business, so there is no avoiding Barry Hall.

Barry Hall doesn’t have any student parking, and passes don’t work there. Students have to either pay for parking or hope for street parking to be available.

Katelyn Long, a sophomore at NDSU, revealed to me that at Barry Hall “it’s literally a struggle every day to not illegally park.”

Barry Hall is a nice building, but it leaves students frustrated. It proves that if new buildings are put up, proper parking needs to be included in the plans. The main question is: Where do we go from here?

I propose two sets of solutions. The first set is temporary, but will buy NDSU some time to plan for the future. I hope that this time won’t be wasted.

First, NDSU needs to change the way they sell passes. Some parking lots are oversold, where as others are undersold. Students who live in dorms should have a main portion of the spaces near their respective homes.

This means that some lots will have to be closed off to commuters. An ideal lot to close off to commuters would be HR, because it would allow space for the new residents to move into.

The commuters would then be shuffled to the Fargodome park and ride lots and put it to good use. As of last week, very few people had purchased passes.

“We have 1,000 spaces at the Fargodome, and so far this year we’ve only sold 61,” Pete Zimmerman, associate director of facilities management, said.

The most recent statistics reveal that Fargodome parking and University Village parking combined are only at 47.6 percent capacity. The numbers reveal that parking is greatly underutilized in these lots.

The park and ride option provides a cheaper solution for students who need parking near campus. The pass is $60, just a third of the price compared to the other lots. When I sat down with Long, she explained why she uses the park and ride system.

“This year I bought a pass for the ‘dome, because it was a lot cheaper,” Long said, “so I just ride the bus or walk.”

By restructuring the way tickets are sold, this will help alleviate the congestion for drivers using the other parking spaces. When possible, students should try to come to campus a little earlier than normal. This will buy time to hunt out a space.

The long-term solutions are more difficult, but can’t be ignored any longer. With a clearer image of what future enrollment will look like, NDSU needs to provide a way for those students to even be on campus.

The Fargo-Moorhead public transportation system isn’t as good as other cities, and NDSU can’t bank on it to solve the gap in parking. It may help some students, but for students like me it is impossible.

If I took the bus from my apartment in Moorhead, my commute would take one hour and eight minutes to get to my 9 a.m. class. The hour long commute back home after class would make me extremely late to work. Simply put, I have to park on campus.

A parking ramp would be the long-term solution. It would be a big commitment for NDSU to make because of how much it would cost. In fact, Zimmerman said it costs roughly $20,000 to $30,000 per space. The price tag for a 1,000 space-parking garage would be around $25 million.

It would hurt the university’s pocketbook, but it needs to be done. Currently, NDSU is spending around $60 million on the renovation and construction of various dormitories and apartments.

In recent years, they have also spent millions on the A. Glenn Hill Center and athletic facilities. These projects are being made in the hopes of retaining and attracting students.

A parking ramp isn’t profitable by any means, which is perhaps why it keeps getting shoved off the table. However, parking does generate some income for the university.

Last year NDSU issued almost 21,000 uncontested parking citations, the lowest costing $20, which brought the university, at minimum, $440,000. They also sold over 5,000 parking passes at $185 a piece, which made NDSU at least an additional $925,000.

It may not be the best rate of return, but it’s something. NDSU needs to build the infrastructure necessary to hold all these future students.

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