By Cassondra Kirby/News editor
One word has the power to conjure the deepest, darkest emotions and even a few naughty words from some in the Eastern community — parking. “I think parking sucks,” Jessica Robinson, an education major from Cincinnati, said. “Eastern has too many teacher parking areas; I think they should have to park in Lancaster.”
Eastern officials are currently working on a $171,000 parking update project to expand parking on campus and to better accommodate Eastern students.
“We are aware of the problems associated with parking,” James Street, director of facilities services, said. “It seems to be a complaint that if you put out an alumni survey it is the first one that comes back.”
Eastern is in the process of adding commuter parking to the rear of the Dizney Building, and once that work is completed, will begin on the expansion of the Vanhoose Parking Lot. Following the two lot expansions, Eastern also plans to construct commuter spaces on the Northeast side of campus on Summit Street. According to Street, Eastern expects to get more than 200 spaces from these expansions.
The $171,000 parking cost comes from the $1,000 to 1,500 fee it takes to create a normal flat parking space, according to Street. Besides the above commuter lot expansions, Eastern doesn’t have any definite plans on expanding parking for students in the near future because of the cost.
“There are not specific plans to expand parking,” Street said. “There is the recognition that there’s a need for more convenient parking and we are looking at our alternatives and options that will accomplish that.”
For now, however, Eastern officials say there are enough parking spaces to go around.
“We have a surplus of parking spaces; they are just not considered convenient by everyone,” Doug Whitlock, vice president of administrative affairs and chair of the parking committee, said. “There are not enough spaces or opportunities to create them close enough to where people live, work and go to class, and that’s one of the reasons we are going to have to rely more on an improved shuttle system.”
Eastern has always had an ongoing struggle between parkers and parking spaces. Recently, parking changes made related to parking zoning came when the crosswalk was taken out and the Lancaster Lot was turned into residential parking from a commuter lot, and there was a change of one of the lots at Powell from employee to residential. Eastern also had to take offline several parking spaces because of the construction of the health education center on campus.
All of this needs to be put into the context of the school having added 660 spaces a couple of years ago where the Brockton trailer park used to be, Street said. Eastern spent more than $600,000 on the broken trailer parking lot expansion, according to Street.
Although there are no specific plans to expand parking in the near future, Eastern is kicking around some potential ideas for the future.
“We are looking at potential acquisition of property for parking,” Street said. “There is the recognition that there’s a need for more convenient parking and we are looking at our alternatives and options that will accomplish that — but right at this moment we do not have a specific location identified.”
According to Street, there has also been the discussion for years about the addition of a parking garage. That’s an opportunity for Eastern to add a significant amount of parking in a fairly dense area. However, because of its many disadvantages, Eastern is leery of the idea, according to Street.
“It’s expensive, maintenance intensive and a safety concern — parking garages have a lot of dark areas and they are very difficult to patrol,” Street said. “Any number of larger concrete structures have a lot of maintenance problems and the parking garage is no exception.”
Street also said parking garages cost about 10 times per parking space to construct more than just flat parking. When looking at a parking garage in a situation like Eastern, Street said officials are weighing the need for convenience against the cost and the fact that the university owns several hundred acres contiguous to campus that could be used.
Because of the disadvantages of a parking garage, however, Street says it’s hard to say if Eastern will ever build one.
“My personal opinion is it is not quite justified in the situation Eastern is in — not to say that somebody above me might not make another decision,” Street said. “I’m not the fellow that gets to listen to most of the parking complaints.”
Another option Eastern has discussed for many years is the idea of an overpass over the Bypass, according to Whitlock.
“We are also looking at the possibility of an overpass to connect the North and South sides of the campus over the bypass,” Whitlock said. “The feasibility of a structure will be evaluated.
Although a parking garage and overpass are not in Eastern’s near future, Whitlock noted that Eastern is examining ways to improve its shuttle service on campus for student convenience.