Campus Parking: Concern or Commonality?

By Jordan Unger

A recent survey was conducted at Youngstown State University to determine which concerns were the most prominent for students. Over 900 students were surveyed, and the most common issue shared among them was parking on campus.

Rachel Evans, junior psychology major, said parking at YSU has been an issue for her. One of these issues is walking from one of the parking lots across Fifth Avenue to her classes in Williamson College of Business Administration.

“In the winter, it’s a hard walk. It really is,” Evans said. “I used to get sick all of the time last semester when it was cold out [while walking to class].”

Zack Scocchera, senior political science major, said he wishes the streets around campus would have more parking meters available, particularly after some were removed with road updates. He said street parking is more convenient for him because the spaces are closer to his classes.

“I’ve driven around campus for 15 minutes at a time looking for street parking,” Scocchera said. “The parking lots are reasonable, but we can probably use more of them. I personally don’t park in [parking decks] because I know people who have had parts of concrete fall on their car.”

Victoria Mathia, sophomore nursing major, said she’s faced problems with parking as well.

“The first couple of weeks of the semester are always hard to find a place to park and I’m usually late for class, even if I give myself 20 minutes to find a parking space,” Mathia said. “It just never seems to be enough.”

Details behind the complaints seem to vary, but many students consistently view parking in a negative light.

Danny O’Connell, director of parking services, said when people come to YSU from other universities, they cannot believe that students have an issue with parking distances.

He said YSU has one of best parking situations among universities in Ohio.

“When we hear somebody at [University Edge] say the parking deck is too far, it’s surprising,” he said. “We suffer from too much enclosed parking. You’ve got 1,268 spots in the Fifth Avenue parking deck right next to two of our major class halls. That’s unheard of in Ohio.”

Two weeks ago, a pair of students from Parking Services were asked to record how long it took to walk to various locations across campus from a central point, in front of Moser Hall. After every minute, they marked their location and the data was used to create a map of the campus.

According to the map, their longest walk took about eight minutes.

Mike Notar, a YSU student from Parking Services, was one of the students involved. He said he did not expect the distances to be as short as they were.

“I always give a rough estimate to myself that [it’ll take] five to 10 minutes to walk to class, but seeing that it was consistently somewhere between four and six minutes, it kind of took me by surprise,” he said.

O’Connell compared the walking distance on campus to other Ohio universities, and he said YSU is one of the best.

“The second best one, in my mind, was the University of Akron … Their [points of interest] are within a 12-minute walk,” he said. “When you get to all of the rest of the schools, you can’t park within 10 minutes of a classroom, and freshmen and sophomores often can’t park anywhere on campus.”

Miami University, for example, does not allow freshmen to have cars unless special needs require it.

Notar transferred to YSU from Kent State University, where he said parking and walking distances are much less convenient. He said all freshmen are limited to parking at Dix Stadium, which runs a bus system every five to 10 minutes.

“If you’re in a rush to go somewhere or you want to go off campus to get something to eat or you need to be back in time, it’s hard to pair it with your lectures and other things you have throughout the day,” Notar said.

He said most of the lots outside of dorms there are designated for faculty or residents. His roommate at KSU would walk 20 minutes from the freshmen dorm to his classes, which he said is more than double the longest walk on YSU’s campus.

“When I came over and [O’Connell] said that parking has been a big complaint, I was kind of surprised because I think YSU does a good job at cutting down the walking time,” Notar said. “If there’s a lot full, we have plenty of lots as long as you buy a parking pass and even if you don’t, it’s only $5 for a temporary pass.”

The YSU Student Government Association President Rayann Atway said SGA has heard that students are increasingly frustrated by parking on campus.

“Parking lots have been torn down to make room for other infrastructure,” Atway said. “We understand that we may not have to walk as far to our classes as students from other universities do, but that doesn’t mean the concerns aren’t legitimate. It seems from my standpoint, students are under the impression there is not adequate parking for the amount of vehicles.”

Mathia said she especially has issues parking during events.

“When the concert was going on, they blocked off for people attending that, but they don’t take into consideration where we’re going to park,” Mathia said.

YSU has 6,999 parking spaces, with a student body of 12,644 people. Although this only accommodates for slightly over half of the campus population, the number is comparable to other universities in Ohio.

KSU has 11,300 spaces for its 28,000 students, the University of Akron has 11,971 spaces for its 22,000 students, MU has 8,000 spaces for its 16,000 students, Cleveland State University has 4,300 spaces for its 17,000 students and Ohio University has 6,400 spaces for its 30,000 students.

To make up for lost parking at YSU, O’Connell said the university plans to add several new surface lots around the campus. For example, he said there are plans for more than 260 spaces to be added between Stambaugh Stadium and the Watson and Tressel Training Site by fall 2019.

Parking spaces aside, O’Connell said YSU has one of the most affordable transportation fees, charging $115 per semester. UA charges $175 per semester and KSU charges $105 per semester plus additional fees.

MU charges $100 to $150 per semester, and garage overnight parking is $520. CSU charges $180 to $240 per semester plus a $100 surcharge for overnight parking. OU charges $135 for commuters, $350 for a guaranteed resident permit and $175 for a non-guaranteed permit.

Some students are also discouraged by parking maintenance at YSU. Jeremy Coler, a senior general studies major with a focus in political science and military science, said this is the case with the parking deck on Fifth Avenue.

“It needs more renovation so it’s not so treacherous,” Coler said. “In the winter, we had all of that snow on the top of the deck and they don’t let anyone know ahead of time … that it’s blocked off. Sending out a text through the systems they already have would be beneficial so commuters know [they cannot park there].”

Coler said he’s seen people cycle through the deck when the top is blocked off, unable to find a space.

“They need more spaces and to be more sensible about how they manage those spaces. Clearing the snow from the top of the decks should be a number one priority,” Coler said.

O’Connell said the university does not plow the top level of the decks after a heavy snow because of their design.

“When we pile [the snow] up in certain areas, it isn’t good for the decks,” he said. “When we are able to get time to plow it, we have to dump the snow over the edge and we can’t do that when people are around.”

He said this makes the roofs of the parking decks take longer to plow than the surface lots, so they block off the top levels and focus on the lots first. Within a day or two, he said they will plow the rooftops.

“That’s a combination of safety and efficiency to open up the most number of parking spots quickly as we can,” O’Connell said.

Additionally, an $800,000 deck repair project is expected to be done this summer. He said consultants visited the parking decks over spring break to help determine repair work that needs done.

“Northeastern Ohio is very tough on our roads and bridges, and the same goes with our parking decks,” he said.

Although the university is working to address some of these issues, Notar said he hopes information such as the map will put things into perspective for concerned students.

“As you put these things into comparison and educate the student body on those different subjects, [we hope] it brings over a realization to them,” he said.