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University continues to weigh parking issue

During the first two weeks of the spring semester, PLNU’s main campus introduced a new parking system for commuters that included stacked parking in the parking structure through a parking attendant. The stacked parking strategy is planned to stay in place for the rest of the semester but it’s unclear how permanent it may be.

In an email to the school’s student body on Jan. 9, Vice President for Student Development, Caye Smith detailed additional changes to the schools parking rules following the implementation of “open parking” last year.

“We have managed parking in the past primarily through the use of specific parking zones. So assigned spaces to residential students, commuter students and faculty staff,” Smith told The Point. “As of this – fall semester, we were grid- locked; it didn’t work anymore.”

The school called on the help of two parking consultants including Walker Parking Consultants, as well as Ace Parking Management, Inc. with whom the school has partnered to institute the stacked parking strategy.

Smith Walker Parking Consultants provided the school with suggestions for developing new parking spaces, a possibility which the school plans to look into over the summer.

“We can’t do those immediately, we’re assessing those, we’ve got to talk to structural engineers and if we can move forward with any of those, we’ll do that over the summer,” Smith said.

“We’ve retained a parking consultant, we have recommendations, we are evaluating them and if we are able to move on them, that will be over the summer,” she added.

Since it’s unclear whether these recommendations are realistic for the university, Smith declined to comment further on what they would include.

The stacked parking method allows commuters to park themselves in the parking garage until all spots are filled, then they are permitted to park end- to-end in front of parking spaces. Only these students who don’t get a traditional parking space are required to hand their keys to the Ace parking attendant who moves vehicles when necessary.

Smith expressed optimism about the stacked parking system, saying that commuters have embraced it.
Lindsey Semmler, manager of Commuter Student Services, appreciates the school’s efforts to improve parking, but has doubts about the stacked parking method.

“My opinion is that last semester they did a good job of alleviating the pressure,” she said about the campus’s policy of open parking for commuters and faculty.

The problem for Semmler, however is that the new stacked parking rules has left a lot of empty faculty parking on the lower level of the garage. Her concern is that this may have made the situation worse.

According to Smith however, the lower level of the lot was only meant to be temporarily reserved for staff traveling to and from Liberty Station. On Wednesday she informed the student body that instead 25 spaces on the lower level had been reserved for staff, based on usage statistics – the rest would be set aside for commuter students.

“People are very weary of using it,” said Semmler about the changes. “They don’t really want their car parked for them, they don’t want to turn over their keys, they don’t want to lose the control of being able to have their keys and their car accessible at all times.”

Semmler explains that she has avoided using the parking structure herself, opting instead to park further away.

She adds that Student Development had spoken with her before instituting the system to get her opinion on how commuter students might react.

“We’ve been part of conversations of different solutions and ideas,” she said. “I mean, we’re very limited on what we can do. I’m not heavily directly involved, but if they have a question on a student’s opinion or perspective sometimes they’ll ask me.”

The school also opened up new spaces near Wiley.

Smith is concerned that people may be reluctant to park there because the chain-link fence makes it appear like exclusive parking. That parking became available following the completion of the new science building after construction vehicles were removed. According to Smith it has opened up between 40-50 new spaces for parking.



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Jonathan Soch

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