Tires circling the pavement… Car horns blaring in the distance… Cars racing to get to their destinations… The general frustration lingering in the air.
This may sound like Monday morning traffic in a busy city or interstate, but rather it is the struggle of Ole Miss students and faculty as they attempt to find a parking space on campus.
Not only is finding a space on campus a big issue for most, but keeping that space without negative repercussion is certainly a challenge.
Over the past few years, the enrollment at Ole Miss has increased significantly, totaling 20,096 in fall of 2014, an all-time high for the school.
However, according the UM Department of Parking and Transportation, there are approximately 14,377 parking spaces available for all students and faculty of the university, causing a major transportation complication.
With only nine parking zones to accommodate student and faculty parking, the university began taking measures to handle the overcrowding and lack of availability.
UM began construction on the Pavilion Parking garage in December 2013, and it was completed this year.
The lot houses 800 spots, and most spaces are sold as reserved parking places by way of permit, while other spots will be open for pay-per-time-used for those with or without a university-issued permit.
However, some permit holders who purchased a space in the Pavilion are still having issues with overcrowding. Permit holders like, Jamie Nelms, is a professor and tutor at Ole Miss.
“It gets ridiculous,” said Nelms. “My husband and I will try to park there, but we have to get there super early just to find a spot. And half the time, we end up getting there and there’s nothing open. It feels pointless to even buy a parking pass if they are just going to fill up before you get the chance to use it.”
Despite complaints and the university’s measures to increase parking availability, there are still significant issues, one being construction on campus and the restrictions this places on surrounding areas.
While construction projects, such as the student union and new student housing are under way, this strains the parking options available to residents in these areas.
Students who would usually park in the Minor Hall Residential Central lot now must look for parking in one of the other two lots open for use. However, these lots only have enough spaces for the number of students living in the surrounding areas, so the conflict continues.
Marissa Caputo, a Residential Central parking permit holder and resident at the Alpha Delta Pi house, believes the main issue lies in the fact the Department of Parking and Transportation oversold the number of passes offered compared to the number of spaces actually available.
“I can’t even get near my house because there is honestly nowhere to park,” said Caputo. “If you want a spot, you better be ready to drive around for 30 minutes. Plus, if you do find a spot that you think is fine, you usually get a ticket for no reason. They gave me a $250 ticket for ‘blocking a handicap walkway’ on the curb when I was really 10 ft. away from it. When I tried to appeal it, they wouldn’t listen to me and denied my request.”
Just like Caputo, many students and faculty have complained about the number of parking tickets issued by the university along with lack of parking spaces.
One student, Kaila Smith, was issued three parking tickets within five minutes of each other. Smith has a commuter decal and usually spends 30-45 minutes daily to search for a parking space.
One day, she left her car outside a residence hall for 10 minutes to pick up a friend. When she returned, there were three tickets on her windshield for parking in a “restricted lot,” and because she didn’t have a residential decal, the university would not appeal them.
Along with ticketing, parking zone restrictions have been a big issue.
Penalties, fines, tickets, hours of operation, etc., are all topics that should be addressed when purchasing parking permits, but seldom are. Many students and faculty do not realize the restrictions that come with their specific parking decals and are not aware of the consequences of breaking these restrictions until the university has already taken action.
For example, most students do not know that both the athletic department and parking services can have your car towed after 7 p.m. on Fridays before game day weekends, even though you are a resident parked in Residential Park-N-Ride.
“I had had my car parked there for three weeks without any issues,” said Nick Garrett. “But then I got a call one Sunday from a tow company saying my car had been there since the last home game (nine days earlier) and they had been trying to reach me.
“Apparently, the university wouldn’t give out my information to the tow place, but they also didn’t let me know they had had my car towed at all. So, I got stuck paying $320 for something that could have been handled if they had just told me I needed to move it in the first place.”
Though problems with parking remain, the university works towards resolving what they can. As the university continues to grow, so does the hope of students and faculty that the issues with parking will eventually diminish until a solution is found.