By Ray Garcia
Returning students may have noticed the newly-paved commuter parking lots, or C-lots on south campus and hoped the university’s parking shortage problems had finally been solved. However, the construction project was not intended to expand available parking.
“We did get a modest increase in parking spaces,” said Bob Putich, manager of the Student Business Office and member of the Parking and Transportation Advisory Committee. “It will hardly keep up with the increase in our student population.”
The parking construction project included repaving parking lots, preventing potholes and addressing stormwater environmental issues.
In addition, the project resulted in a few more added spaces in the lots, but the number of new spots was not proportional to the increasing number of students attending Western.
“It’s frustrating,” junior Seleni DeJesus Ponce said. “I’ve had to park far away due to the lack of parking.”
If the C-lots are full, students are redirected to park at the Lincoln Creek Park and Ride on Lincoln Street and catch the bus to campus. Busses serving routes to the university are often full.
Due to the limited amount of parking spaces on campus, students get stuck on a waitlist for a parking permit they may not get. As a result, these students must find alternative options to get to campus.
“I didn’t get a parking pass,” junior Austin Ford said. “I signed up for it, but then I was on the waitlist. I checked this morning, and I think I’m spot number 151, so I don’t think I’ll be getting it.”
Ford said the 10-minute drive from his house to campus takes 45 minutes on the bus.
“It’s kind of what I’m stuck with at this point,” Ford said. “It would help if there was a parking structure somewhere.”
Putich said it would cost the school between $25 million to $40 million to build a parking structure.
“Those kinds of dollars are just not making sense today,” Putich said. “When push comes to shove and we don’t have a choice, then we will make a decision.”
Given that such a structure isn’t financially feasible right now, Western advocates for the use of the current transportation system that is in place.
In 2007, the Alternative Transportation Fee was voted on and passed by a committee that was run mostly by students. Students pay $26.25 per quarter, which funds bus passes for students and the late-night shuttle. It has been renewed twice – in 2012 and 2017.
“Western students, faculty and staff, as a community, have an admirably low rate of single-occupant vehicle commuting,” Carol Berry, program director for the Campus Conservation and Sustainable Transportation program, said in an email. “A transportation fee providing a low-cost bus pass for every student, and a late-night shuttle, is a huge factor in social equity.”
Berry added that because not all students can afford to own a car and drive to school, paying to add more parking spaces using funding that could be put towards something else would disproportionately benefit certain groups of students.
Despite these alternative forms of transportation, some students still face difficulties on their commutes.
“I live in a very busy neighborhood,” Ponce said. “I’ve had times where both buses got full, therefore, I had to walk 30 to 35 minutes to campus. It’s ridiculous how much students have to struggle to get on campus.”