No Vacancy for commuter students

Oswego State commuters are running out of patience while their cars run out of gas, as the parking situation for those who travel to campus daily becomes increasingly problematic. Trying to find a spot on campus during the morning and early afternoon has turned into a time-consuming hassle for many students as the potential for losing even more on-campus spots looms. Doug Berry, a commuter student and senior political science major, said the parking situation on campus for students commuting to class is unfair and seems to favor students that live on campus.

"Just because I don’t have a dormitory room here… doesn’t mean I don’t pay the same amount to park," Berry said.

University Police Chief Cynthia Adam, chair of the campus parking committee, said that while parking for commuters is not ideal, it remains adequate. While Adam acknowledges that the commuter parking is not excellent, she points out that there are more commuter parking spots than commuters.

Of the 4,000 commuter students, there are only 1,300 registered with the parking office that drive in on a regular basis. There are roughly 2,500 commuter parking spots on campus, 1,200 of which are located between Romney Field House and State Route 104. "We have more than sufficient commuter parking on a daily basis," Adam said. "Is the parking where people want it to be? Of course not." Berry, who commutes from the Watertown area, first became aware of the parking situation confronting commuting students when he was unable to find parking in the commuter lot south of Cooper Dining Hall and parked in the empty employee lot across the street. When Berry returned from class, he found a $20 ticket on his vehicle. He complained to the parking office, but to no avail.

According to Adam, anyone who gets a ticket is entitled to an appeal, but must request it within two business days of getting the ticket. Students can request an appeal online or in person at the parking office. They also have the option of appealing via e-mail or in person with the hearing officer.

"We’ve made the hearing process as easy as possible," Adam said. "Now they can appeal citations electronically, which makes it easier for commuters."

The lack of parking on the main part of campus forced commuters to begin parking in the overflow lot between Romney Field House and State Route 104.

For getting to and from the Romney lot, Student Association contracts Centro to provide bus service on campus. The bus service runs throughout the day.

"Sometimes, there might not be service from certain stops, but you can always get to and from the Campus Center," Kathy Kintz, manager of the Oswego Centro, said. The possibility remains that due to the future renovation of Piez, officials might need to close off at least a portion of the Snygg commuter lot. To compensate for the loss though, lot 17 near the rear of the Campus Center will be expanded. The question remains though as to who exactly will be eligible to park there.

Also being considered is constructing a geothermal well field under the Snygg lot, which would likely force the entire lot to go offline for an undetermined period of time. The plans regarding the parking arrangements for the potential projects are still not completely sorted out, and students are encouraged to put in their own suggestions on how to handle the parking problem, said Tom Simmonds, Oswego State’s director of facilities.

"There will be challenges for everyone from the construction on the West End," Simmonds said. While the service remains available every school day, the reluctance among students to park such a distance away from campus has meant the service has remained sparsely used and that the stress level among students to get a spot on campus remains high.

"The shuttle lot stays dramatically underutilized on a daily basis because the majority of students don’t want to be that far away from the center of campus," Adam said.

While there sometimes are delays, especially during the winter, Adam said commuter students would be wise to factor this into their schedule. "I understand its frustrating for non-traditional commuters especially because many times they are trying to balance other responsibilities," Adam said "They’re going to need to pad in an extra 15-20 minutes."
Still, Berry questions the practicality of using surge parking as a way to appease commuter students who pay the same as those who park on campus.

"Parking half a mile from class, waiting for a shuttle bus that doesn’t arrive, with no signage, no idea when this scheduling is, is not in my opinion, the kind of service I paid for when I laid out $60 for the semester to park," Berry said.

New parking spaces have been added to better accommodate commuter students and ease difficulty finding parking within reasonable walking distance of classes.

"We’ve added a new commuter lot two years ago just to the south of Culkin Hall," Adam said.

Adam explained that the reason some commuter parking is so far away from campus doesn’t have anything to do with residents or employees’ parking needs being more important. Rather, it has to do with the college’s future.

Motor vehicles make up the single largest part of Oswego State’s environmental footprint and the college is attempting to lower its emissions. One bus holding 60 people removes possibly 60 commuter vehicles, Adam said.

On top of that, due to the new building projects such as the Campus Center and future science complex renovation have altered the campus traffic pattern greatly. Parking now needs to be on the outer edges of the campus, instead of in the middle.

The idea is to let employees park in the middle of campus, have residents park on the East and West ends near their respective residence hall, and have the commuters park to the south of campus, farther away.

"We’re going to be using more perimeter parking for everybody with the understanding that to get across campus quickly, you’re going to need to rely on walking or the free shuttle," Adam said. "We can’t promise all of our constituents front door parking when you’re having thousands of people access the campus."

For Berry and others, these explanations don’t change the bottom line for students commuting to campus.

"I have to get here at least a half-hour early to find any spot," said senior psychology major Nicole Burdick. "We need more convenient parking." "I’ll drive one minute to campus to spend 30 minutes trying to find a parking spot," said senior language and international trade major Nino Mecevic.

"Its not more parking, its smarter parking," Berry said.

Adam says that with fewer commuters in the center of campus, traffic will be affected positively. Traffic and congestion will be reduced making life easier for pedestrians and the flow of foot traffic going east and west. Emergency vehicles and shuttles busses will also have less difficulty traveling around campus.

"The reality of it is that the campus footprint has changed permanently," Adam said. "It’s a residential campus that’s meant to be a walking campus."