A Multi-Ringed Circus: Parking at MSMC

By Stephanie Watkins

Run out of the building with no shoes on while your roommate races to get her car to reach the priceless gem you are standing in: an open parking space on campus. Circle the parking lot over and again, now you are ten minutes late and parked nowhere near your class. This is the parking situation at Mount Saint Mary College.

There are a total of 1,200 parking spaces on campus. Of those spaces; 200 are designated for residents, 600 are commuter spaces, 300 are for faculty and staff, 50 are handicap parking and the remaining 34 are designated as “Other,” according to Matthew Byrne, director of security and safety. According to the school’s website there are 2,700 students enrolled in Mount Saint Mary College – that leaves the parking lots 1,500 spaces short, just for students alone.

The shortage of parking spaces is becoming more and more prevalent to the student body. Commuting and residential students alike are extremely frustrated by what has been deemed “the parking issue” by the student body.

Commuter Emily Stanek said, “I cannot find a spot unless I leave 30 minutes to one hour early, and even then I am not guaranteed a parking spot that isn’t next to Sakac.” Stanek has been a commuter for four years and drives an hour and a half to school each day. According to Samantha Hartshorn, a senior nursing major, “this school isn’t a small private school anymore like it used to be; it’s growing and [the school] need[s] to realize that because they aren’t compensating for parking.” Hartshorn is on degree number two here at the Mount after changing her major. She has been here for six years.

Parking spaces are designated by color. White spaces are for residents and commuters, and yellow spaces are for faculty and staff. While the line colors are the same, residents can only park in the courts, behind Sakac and in the lower Dominican Center (D.C.) parking adjacent to the entrance of the school. Faculty may park behind Hudson, in front of the Kaplan classrooms, directly behind the D.C., behind and next to Aquinas and the lots surrounding Bishop Dunn. The remaining 14 parking lots are designated for commuter parking. Parking outside of your designated lot results in parking tickets.

For residents, the Mount is home for eight months out of the year, and not being able to park near your home is frustrating. Cassidy Dickman, senior, lives in CC 20. Her closet parking option is the lot directly behind her building or the lot behind CC21 across the street from her. Another convenient lot for those who live in CC 20 is the lower Hudson lot, a commuter lot. If a resident parks in a commuter lot overnight they must move their car by 7 a.m. – when security begins the ticketing process. According to Dickman, “the lots in the courts are way too small compared to the buildings and I don’t feel safe parking behind Sakac when I have to walk to my car at 4 a.m. for clinical, so yes I park in Hudson sometimes.” She also mentioned, “I have paid at least $100 – probably more – in parking tickets from the school, all at $20 each.”

Students are able to appeal parking tickets in person in Hudson Hall or online on the security and safety page of the school’s website. According to Byrne, “commuter students sometimes park in resident lots with impunity but they often get tickets, as the resident students do for parking in commuter spots. As much as I wish we could avoid giving any tickets, we realize that, without regular enforcement, many people would simply park wherever they wish, which would make things difficult for everyone.” Jaqueline Brown is a senior biology major who, before becoming a resident this year, was a commuter for three years. She has seen both sides of the parking issue. Brown said, “when I was a commuter I hated when I would see resident cars by Aquinas because I thought they were just being lazy. Turns out they were just moving their cars from Hudson to Aquinas because residents don’t get tickets for parking by Aquinas but first thing in the morning I have to race to my car in Hudson before security gives me a ticket.”

Security encourages students to park on public roads, saying, “There are also an additional 160 spaces on public streets such as Powell Avenue and Carobene Court generally used by resident students.”  When told about this “solution,” Brown said, “as a commuter you worry about parking near your classes, but when you go home you are guaranteed a place to park. As a resident at the Mount you aren’t guaranteed that and that is just not okay.” Even strictly commuters agree on this point: “Parking on public roads is just…asking for unsafety,” commented Hartshorn.

Byrne also spoke about the congestion that athletic events cause in the resident parking areas. “One special event, such as a seminar or guest speaker with a large audience, can make parking difficult for others,” He said. “This may result in crowding out that can present an inconvenience for the moment and require that you seek an alternate place to park.”

Resident and commuter students agree that something must be done to improve the parking situation. There seems to be a general consensus for how to solve it: a parking garage. Senior Mike Dorval, who lives in the D.C. and only has one resident lot on the same side of campus as his dorm, agrees that a parking garage is a great solution, saying, “we definitely need more parking and residents need to be shown that we are cared about, and our safety is cared about – not just for us as people but for our cars too.”

When the student’s solution was brought to Byrne, he said “SUNY Orange Newburgh and Middletown both have indoor parking garages that have exponentially increased their available vehicle capacity. Parking garages are a great idea and can often be a viable solution. I will bring your recommendation forward as I do with many other security suggestions that originate with students. A special project such as a parking garage would be a capital improvement which would require considerable planning, careful forecasting and adequate budgeting.”

While a solution to this issue is not seen in the near future, students and faculty alike can bring their recommendation to security at any time and be heard. Communication is key in creating a lasting and viable solution to this growing problem on campus.