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Western students face challenges with parking on campus

Frequent car break-ins and a lack of parking passes available are the top issues for commuter students and campus residents alike

Cars parked in Western Washington University’s on-campus C Lot on a school day. C Lot, located on south campus, is the main parking lot for students who reside off-campus and commute to school. // Photo by Paige Thibaut

Western Washington University students with cars have long complained about Western’s parking options.

Car break-ins across Washington state have nearly doubled this year compared to last year, and cars parked on or near Western’s campus are no exception. 

First-year Abigail Ho Chee parks her car off-campus at the Sehome Hill Arboretum and experienced a break-in on Feb. 18.

Ho Chee said she went to go check on her car in the Arb when she noticed her passenger side window was smashed in and her registration was stolen. She said about five other cars were broken into as well. 

“There was another girl there who had called the cops. When the cops arrived they told us we could file a report, but also that there wasn’t much they could do besides patrol the area since there were no surveillance cameras,” Ho Chee said. 

Western’s Parking Analyst Jackson Johnson states that campus’ transportation services are taking action to address these break-ins. 

“In an effort to mitigate vehicle prowls and thefts on campus while maintaining the security and safety of our campus community, Western has incorporated additional patrolling and dedicated additional resources to address these increases,” Johnson said. 

Johnson said he urges students parking on or off-campus to hide valuables and even loose change within their cars. He also said to make use of car alarms to help prevent break-ins and prowlers.

    
    
    
    

Availability of parking passes also presents challenges for students attempting to park. Western Washington University is attended by approximately 15,000 students, but Johnson said there is a total of only 2,700 parking passes available, with around 700 being designated for on-campus residents, and 1,450 passes for the Commuter lots that are designed for students who live off-campus. There are an additional 550 passes available for the Lincoln Creek lot, located approximately a mile away from campus.

This leaves a majority of students unable to get a parking pass.

Shelby Zimmerman, manager of Western’s Transportation Services, is responsible for overseeing all transportation-related matters, which include parking permits and parking lot maintenance, but also citations, bus passes and bike lockers.

Zimmerman says that the biggest problem Transportation Services has faced for several years now is the high demand for parking on campus and there is simply not enough space on or around campus to build enough parking to accommodate everyone. 

“Any attempt to build parking lots with enough capacity to meet these demands would be irresponsible on the part of Western in regards to our environmental stewardship of campus and to the fiscal impacts on our campus community,” Zimmerman said.

Many students who do not receive a pass end up parking off-campus. Ho Chee lives on campus and received a pass to park at the Lincoln Creek lot, but opted to park at the Arboretum instead due to the Lincoln Creek lot’s distance from campus. She said she’s been on the waitlist for an on-campus pass since last August. 

Zimmerman and Johnson both encourage students to find alternative ways to get to campus.

“One goal that we’re working on is helping to return the bus ridership numbers to a level closer to where they were pre-pandemic,” Johnson said. “With the bus system being such a critical part of Western’s student commuting process, getting people comfortable riding the bus again will greatly help in freeing up available parking for students who may not have access to the bus as a commute option.” 

Zimmerman said during fall 2021, Western’s Transportation Services piloted a two-year program allowing students residing in Skagit County, who traditionally would have had to drive to campus, to use their Western ID as a bus pass for Skagit Transit entirely free of cost.

In addition to riding the bus, Zimmerman also said he encourages biking and walking to school as alternatives to driving for students who reside close to campus. 

“I’m hopeful that the campus community will join with us in being responsible stewards of our environment and I encourage everyone to find alternative commuting options,” Zimmerman said.



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