My earliest class this semester starts at 10:05 a.m. I live in a U Club apartment, which means I have a pretty convenient commute to Binghamton University’s campus. While the bus is my first choice in commuting most days, there are many days where I have work or other plans after class. In these instances, it makes the most sense for me to drive to and from campus. However, on such days, I know I need to leave my apartment around 8 a.m., two hours before my class starts, to be guaranteed a parking spot. If I delay, I can expect to drive around campus looking for a parking spot and be late for class.
I’m not the only one who gets a headache trying to park on campus. I have had friends show up late or miss classes solely because they could not find parking. In fact, recently, there were a number of cars parked alongside Parking Lot M — not blocking any car — and Transportation and Parking Services had a field day tucking $40 tickets into their windshields. Some of my friends received a ticket that day, and when asked why they parked there, they replied, “We were not going to miss a quiz just because we couldn’t find parking.” There are people who paid $140.55 for an annual commuter parking permit, including that mysterious $25 registration fee, and end up paying to park in paid lots because they cannot find a spot and are running late to work or class. I am curious as to why virtually all the lots closest to the main campus are paid: the parking garage, the lot in front of Mohawk Hall of College-in-the-Woods and the two lots near the library. Parts of Parking Lot M, the Anderson Center and the new Parking Lot G1 are all paid.
A peer of mine previously wrote a column for Pipe Dream arguing that students should take the bus or find other means of commuting to campus. Buses are cheaper than driving, we already pay a transportation service fee and they are also less environmentally destructive. However, too many people know the struggle of waiting for a bus that completely drives past them or not being able to get on a bus because it’s full. In these situations, students drive to campus, which adds to the influx of traffic already there. Once commuter lots are filled up, these commuters begin spilling into residential lots, making life harder for residential students, who can only park in residential lots, making the bus solution no solution at all.
If you search “parking” on Pipe Dream’s website, you get 46 pages of results. Many of the articles that come up are of students complaining about parking and University officials trying to remedy parking by opening up paid lots or stating there is no more room. I had to stop looking once I hit the year 2009 because I got tired of scrolling, but it didn’t stop there. Why is it that the University has not struck the right chord when it comes to addressing the parking problem on campus? Is it because the University does not cap the number of parking permits that they sell? Is it because they plan to increase the number of students admitted each school year? According to BU’s website, there are about 17,900 students enrolled for the 2019-20 school year — there’s certainly not enough parking for a sliver of those attending.
Maybe part of this is because the University is constantly looking to expand inward. When you look at the campus as a whole, there are over 600 acres of undeveloped land belonging to the Nature Preserve. One hundred eighty-two acres of this land is the bulk that makes up the Nature Preserve that people know. Although the Nature Preserve is one of my favorite parts of campus, when push comes to shove, I believe the University should utilize some of it to expand outward. Some parts of the Nature Preserve are inaccessible by foot while other parts of it succumb to students looking for a place to smoke or throw their trash. If the University builds into select portions of the Nature Preserve, they can create new lots for students to park in. They don’t have to stop at new lots either — they can build a new dorm building for the influx of new students and solve the forced-triple situation that happened just last year.
The Nature Preserve is one of the features that attracted me to this school. How many other schools have such a vast natural area that is readily available for students to walk, hike, photograph or run through? But, at the same time, how many universities constantly have to have a conversation about parking? Realistically, does BU really need all 600 acres of virtually unused land? Parking is a problem that will not fix itself, as evidenced by the many, many years of complaints and the increasingly burdensome influx of student cars each semester will only elicit more. The University needs to fix this by expanding outward into a Nature Preserve that is currently not completely utilized, not by slapping a Band-Aid on it.
Sahar Akhlaq is a senior majoring in biology.