Traffic leads to campus frustration

Michael Mastrandre

Northern Kentucky University student Kassie Crooks leaves home an hour before class begins to make sure she arrives on time. Crooks lives 15 minutes from campus.

Sound familiar?

Since the start of fall classes, students and faculty have been annoyed by long lines of traffic waiting to enter campus and, seemingly futile, searches for an open parking place once on campus grounds.

“It gets me so frustrated,” Crooks said. “It’s not a big parking thing – it’s the wait in line. DPS shuffles everyone to the farthest area when there are (closer) spots open. I feel like I’m going to school at Kings Island.” she said.

Another student, Travis Gettys, said, “It’s crazy! You’d think after spending $50, you would be able to park.”

“The first two weeks are always hectic,” Dept. Chief Jeff Butler, of Public Safety, said. However, the congestion is getting betterand adequate parking is available, but, according to Butler, “it is not up close parking for everyone.”

According to Rick Meyers, assistant vice president of University Communications, it is the same problem today as in 1977 when he was a student at NKU. “Everybody wants a spot in front of their building.” After a couple weeks, students learn where the parking spots are and when they need to get here. “It all shakes out,” Meyers said.

However, there is one big difference between 1977 and 2002 – enrollment. This fall, enrollment is at an all-time high – 13,970 compared to 12, 548 at the same time last year. This is a jump of more than a thousand students.

“(There was) no way anyone anticipated that. We were all surprised,” said Mary Paula Schuh, director of campus planning.

According to vice president of Administration and Finance Mike Baker, “Students have experienced greater problems finding parking this year…due to increased enrollment.”

In addition to increased enrollment and staff, the new science building, additional classrooms, more students on campus during peak hours, students staying on campus longer, less carpooling and ongoing construction all impact parking, Baker said.

“Last year, the university lost numerous faculty/staff parking spaces due to construction and the creation of more visitor parking. Again this year, construction took another 38 parking spaces in faculty/staff lots,” Baker said.

“Over the last couple years, faculty has run out of space. Last year there was a deficit in faculty parking….afternoon or evening faculty couldn’t find any spot to park,” Schuh said.

“Faculty must have ample parking since they are required to teach at odd hours and civic engagement is encouraged; this often requires them to leave campus and return at odd times,” reported Baker.

To address the shortage of faculty/staff parking, Lot E (formerly a student lot) was changed to faculty/staff parking which provided 191 spaces. However, faculty lost the use of Lot I, which was overflow for faculty last year. It has been converted to student-only parking this year.

While students lost parking in Lot E, an area directly behind Landrum, actual parking spaces available to students has increased this year. “The reconfiguration of Lot L, along with the new temporary lot, added 315 student parking spaces,” Baker said.

“Dorm residents are now required to park in Lots P, Q and the new gravel lot,” Baker said. “This should be sufficient parking for those students. Last year, we found it was difficult for commuter students to find the lots less visible from the road, thus requiring change in lot assignments.”

“Parking has definitely changed since last spring,” Baker said.

And, according to Baker, more changes are in the making. “[The university’s] Master Plan calls for the soccer field to be moved across Johns Hill Road and a parking deck to be built on its current site. “We plan to build more parking near the new residential hall.”

However, there is not sufficient funding to finance the additional structures at this time. “We are still working on a strategy, timeline and financial plan,” Schuh said.

The Transportation Advisory Committee, consisting of members from Student Government, Faculty Senate and Staff Congress will, according to Baker, “continue to review the parking situation; changes will be made as needed.”

Even though the situation at NKU isn’t perfect, said Butler, “We have good parking by comparison.” For instance, at the University of Cincinnati parking passes cost anywhere from $66 to $204 per quarter. That’s $198 to $612 a year, depending on the area the permit allows. The NKU parking facilities are “much more accessible,” and only $48 per year.

The worst may be over. “The situation has improved this week; the demand for parking decreases as we get further into semester,” Baker said. “Public Safety reported there is now available parking at all times on our campus.”