A Parking Dilemma

By: Leslie Hamilton, Features Editor 

Although S&T is a rather small campus and walking, biking, and even scootering are considered norms for commuting, a fair amount of people still commute by car or need a semi-permanent place to park on campus – particularly those that still live on-campus in residential halls. Unfortunately, on-campus parking and even parking remotely close to campus is rather difficult to come across. A parking spot closest to your destination can be as rare as a desert oasis, especially one that does not violate parking ordinates, coins for a parking meter, or a parking permit/pass. In the end, it comes down to your willingness to risk getting a parking ticket. Nevertheless, this parking problem continues to grow as incoming freshman classes continue to get larger and larger and more transfer students transfer into the university. From a student’s standpoint, the university is making an effort to correct the parking situation alongside issues related to limited student housing; however, is it enough and is there a longterm solution?

Current, on-campus housing parking does not appear to reflect basic assumptions, nor does it always account for commuting students and faculty that may apply for a permit for that lot. The Thomas Jefferson residence hall, commonly known as TJ, permit parking requires the permit holder live in that particular residence hall and is the only parking lot that is enforced and monitored “24 hours a day, 7 days a week” per the University Police Department’s parking lot operations. This parking lot seems to better reflect parking needs for the students living there, assuming a range of zero to two cars per room; however, I do not doubt that there are students living in TJ without a permit for that lot. In contrast to the TJ parking lot, other residence hall parking lots and nearby parking lots, such as the overflow parking lot located across the street from the Residential College 1 (RC-1), do not require verification of residence to obtain a permit nor do they guarantee that a student living in on-campus housing, will be able to obtain a parking permit near their semi-permanent residence. For example, I distinctly remember living in RC-2 my freshman year at S&T and being on the waitlist for the parking lot closest to my dorm. Although I settled for a parking permit in a parking lot that was within walking distance, Area X, Lot 22 by Gale Bullman and the fitness center to be exact, it was still an annoyance and inconvenience whenever I needed to use my car. I eventually got off the waitlist and got a spot in my desired parking lot, approximately a week before I moved into a sorority house, wherein my parking permit was not frequently used, but was still valid. A similar thing was seen my freshman year with parking around the Quadrangle, which was mostly street parking, and the nearby lot still did not reflect the students living there, while accounting for commuting students and faculty.

Since my freshman year, the Quadrangle is no longer a quadrangle, but rather the remaining buildings and a parking lot. This additional parking lot, in combination to the building of the University Commons and its associated parking lot, has helped with the loss of on-campus student housing and obviously increased access to on-campus parking; however, the problem is not completely solved. The solution is more comparable to a band aid or the way people commonly use duct tape, it is a temporary fix, a temporary fix that could end up costing more in the long run. It seems that the current environment and needs are being suited rather than looking farther into the future of the university, a lot of which is constricted by the city itself than by the university. The parking lot that lies where a portion of the Quadrangle used to be, is a prime example of university expansion constricted by the city. That parking lot was intended to be a parking garage, but the city would not allow for a parking garage to be built. I get the reasoning behind the decision, aesthetically, but that would have been a great use of space and better accommodate current and potentially future parking needs. In the end, it all begs the question: at the current trend for incoming freshman classes and transfer students, when will the university outgrow Rolla? Or would university acceptance become limited and competitive in order to better reflect available on-campus and off-campus student housing, parking, and classroom sizes?