Commuter parking woes still evident on campus

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    I’ve always thought the whole parking problem was exaggerated.So, when I heard a commuter student say he didn’t go to class because he couldn’t find a parking spot, I rolled my eyes.

    What? You drove to campus, attempted to park and couldn’t find a spot, so you skipped class? Are you serious?

    He was, and, actually, that excuse might be legitimate.

    As of Sept. 12, the TCU Police Department said it had sold 3,700 commuter parking stickers.

    “Any student attending TCU has a right to a parking permit,” wrote Don Mills, vice chancellor for student affairs. “Because not every person comes to campus every day, there are more spaces than cars on any specific day.”

    That’s reasonable, though there seem to be thousands of students fighting for parking each morning.

    The plus side is that the number of commuter parking spaces has risen from 1,557 spots available last February, said Harold Leeman, the associate director of major projects.

    So, it seems the administration has been listening to student complaints about parking and is seeking to improve.

    In an e-mail, Mills wrote that whether or not there is a “parking problem” depends on how you define it.

    “Clearly, if one expects close-up, convenient parking next to each building, then parking is a problem,” he wrote. “If, however, there is an understanding that not every person, indeed very few people, will be able to park next to their destination, then parking is not a problem.”

    I’ve found that most TCU students expect to be able to drive up to campus and park relatively near their building and would rather hover around parking lots like vultures waiting for students to leave, than drive out and park far away. I guess that makes commuter parking a large problem.

    Does that make us lazy?

    Probably, but we’re paying $75 a year for a parking pass – the same as those who get relatively convenient parking near their buildings.

    There’s also the concern of making it on time for class. It’s disrespectful to both students and faculty when students wander in late consistently. Granted, we should probably leave earlier for class and expect to park far away from our building and walk, but do students really have to pack their hiking boots every day?

    According to the Physical Plant and the TCU Police Department, respectively, there are between 2,034 and 3,216 spots available for commuters. The difference in the counts is attributed to remote parking lots, like the TRAC lots, by both departments.

    Theoretically, TRAC could be a solution. Honestly, I’ve never used TRAC, but I hear parking out there takes time. And I know from experience, time is something some students, faculty and staff don’t have.

    And, to make matters worse, it costs the same to park far away as it does to park on main campus, near buildings. Of course students are going to cruise around the main campus commuter lots. There is no incentive to park out there in the lots by the stadium. Waiting for and riding a bus around isn’t most TCU student’s idea of snazzy and convenient transportation. Making parking permits $30 or $40 cheaper for those who park out there would probably greatly increase TRAC usage.

    And the TRAC lots are in the opposite direction of, say, the library.

    Mills wrote that TCU is building more commuter parking on the east side of campus.

    “The number of commuter spots is adequate in terms of raw numbers,” Mills said. “However, we do believe that more parking should be available on the east side of campus. So, the lot at Berry and Sandage, which will add 450 spaces, will open this fall and have a shuttle service associated with it. Additionally, commuter parking was expanded on the lot adjacent to the Secrest-Wible Building this semester.”

    Mills also said that the increasing number of students TCU has been admitting each year has made parking challenging, but he said the parking situation has gotten better with the creation of the Frog TRAC Shuttle.

    He predicts parking will continue to improve as more spots open up this year.

    Though the majority of spots in the 700-car garage in the GrandMarc facility will be for residents, Mills said, many of the students living in the apartments will be those students currently commuting to school, which should help solve some parking problems.

    I guess for now, TCU commuters will have to honk at the university while it seeks to address parking woes.

    Janelle Stecklein is a senior news-editorial journalism and political science major from Plano.