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Students' concerns over parking addressed

Photo By: Jeremiah Hassel/The Behrend Beacon

12-4-2018

Jeremiah Hassel, Staff Writer

The commencement of the fall semester of the 2018-19 school year at Penn State Behrend has incited heated complaints from several students, faculty, and staff regarding the availability of parking on campus. Behrend personnel and visitors are finding it increasingly difficult to locate parking in Erie Lot, the parking structure near the Burke Research and Economic Development Center, and the various residential lots around campus.

Randy Geering, the Director of Business and Operations at Behrend, attributes the complaints to time management issues on the behalf of those parking.

“They don’t give themselves enough time,” explained  Geering. “If you come to class ten minutes ahead of time and you’re expecting to park in the parking deck at 10:00 a.m., chances are you’re going to be late.”

Since the conclusion of the 2017-18 academic year, the campus has added upwards of 210 parking spaces in the parking structures for commuter students and has repurposed several of the commuter spots around the apartments and Almy and Ohio Halls to be residential spaces. According to Geering, the renovations were in response to the construction of Trippe Hall to provide more residential spaces around the new building.

“If you go to the Junker Lot on any given day, it’s only one third full. There is plenty of parking for commuters. … I have more than enough space for residential parking. If you go up any given day, I’ve got 100 plus spaces in this lot [Ohio Lot], for residentials. So when I hear the complaint that there’s not enough parking, that’s not true. There’s not enough parking where you want to park. That’s the issue,” said Geering.  

The Behrend campus contains a total of around 2,800 parking spots. The renovation to the parking deck added around 200 spaces to this previous total. There are about 1,516 commuter spaces, which may be closer to 1,700 now, 849 residential spaces, and about 430 spaces reserved for visitors, faculty, and staff, according to the police services parking system.

“It was interesting because it wasn’t a problem, ever before, about commuter parking, and now, we’ve provided these spaces and now there’s a problem. I don’t understand it. It doesn’t make sense to me,” said Geering.

According to their system, this year, police services sold around 2,617 parking permits, with 1,977 of these designated for commuters and 610 for resident students. The other 30 are derived from evening only permits, which are designed for part-time students or adults taking late classes and who only travel to campus at night. Another 723 were sold and are used by campus administration, faculty, and staff members.  

The campus follows a policy of about 1.7 commuter passes for every commuter spot on campus, assuming that each commuter spot will have 2 cars occupying it in a given day. This means that 1,977 commuters must compete for the 1,516 available spots, though not all at the same time, all according to Geering.

The statistics are down from previous years by over 100 passes, with 2,754 permits sold in 2017 and 2,769 in 2016 compared to this year’s 2,617, said the police services system. “I’ve been doing this job since 2010. We have more available parking this year than we’ve had any year that I’ve worked in this position. We added 210 spaces, and our enrollment is down slightly,” explained Geering.

The Behrend campus offers several options for students to appeal complaints, both with the Student Government Association (SGA)’s student affairs committee and the appeals process through the police services.

“I’m always willing to sit and discuss this, cause a lot of it’s just about not knowing, not understanding why things are the way they are,” explained Geering, who believes that student and faculty unawareness contributes heavily toward several of the voiced complaints.

Geering is also willing to building more parking spaces, either through additions or renovations to the existing parking structure or in existing lots. A surface level spot is about $1,200-1,800 for maintenance and construction, whereas a single space in a parking deck is about $3,500-4,200 when the same factors are considered, so the demand would need to be assessed before construction occurs.

Another option would involve eliminating parking availability for first year students, which would increase the amount of parking spaces for residential students and allow the percentage of commuter spaces and faculty and staff spaces to increase as a result.

Senior Alexander Ford, a Computer Engineering major, generally begins his school day parking in the structure near Burke, often failing to find spots.

“I go through the entire parking garage, and there’s no spots, so then I have to go somewhere else and I’m late for class,” said Ford.

While the issue of parking problems is still a sore spot for debate amongst faculty, staff, and students, most Behrend personnel agree on the issue of the problematic traffic patterns on College Drive. About a year ago, stop signs were installed to control the flow of the vehicles leaving campus, but these signs have done little to alleviate the congestion. Most days, vehicles can be seen as far back as the Otto-Behrend Science Building (OBS) with each individual car or truck taking upwards of 20 minutes just to arrive at Jordan Road from a given parking lot.

Geering, among other administration, has brainstormed ideas to increase the flow of the traffic, pondering ideas from the construction of a traffic circle, a right-hand turn lane at Jordan Road, and even a complete closure of Jordan Road. However, no plans have come to fruition due to zoning issues with Harborcreek Township among other factors.

As a senior, Ford has been parking on campus for years, and often struggles to find parking and to navigate the traffic jams that often affect College Drive.

“I think there’s just not enough spots for commuters on the upper half of campus, and then, when it comes to parking on the bottom of campus, I think it’s really congested and it just takes forever to leave, so I’ve also been late to other classes and stuff whenever I’m trying to leave the bottom of campus, to go somewhere when it takes like 20 minutes to get out,” explained Ford.

Parking on campus has become a constant battle waged between the administration and students. The question now: Who will emerge victorious and who will walk across campus?