By Pierce Morrison
At 10:30 a.m. on a Monday morning, University of Mississippi graduate student Tucker Stafford rides around the parking lot in front of the Jackson Avenue Center. By 10:50 a.m., he’s parked and walks toward one of the Oxford University Transit buses to ride to campus.
“This is a normal thing for me,” he said. “Every Monday and Friday, I get here by 10:30 a.m., and don’t get a parking spot by 10:50.”
The city of Oxford has a population of 18,916, but when school is in session, the University of Mississippi’s 23,212 student body more than doubles the population of the town causing parking issues. In the second story in a series on parking, we asked UM students what parking issues they have faced.
During the school year, it’s often difficult to find a parking space, so the University of Mississippi partners with the city of Oxford to provide a bus system to get people on campus more efficiently.
Jeron Adams, a UM sophomore psychology student, is another student who has endured parking problems, so he also rides an OUT bus to campus, a method of transportation that has its challenges if you don’t have good timing.
“It’s sometimes a five- or six-minute wait for the bus,” he said, “and then, it’s about a 10-minute bus ride to campus where I have a five-minute walk from the bus stop. I’ve been passed three or four times this semester because they are too full, making me late to class when it’s only a five-minute drive to campus.”
While most apartment complexes have a bus stop at one of their entrances, many neighborhoods do not. Students sometimes have a long walk to the closest bus stop.
“It’s a mile-and-a-half walk until the first bus stop,” Stafford said. “It’s easier to drive around for 20 minutes than to walk for 30.”
Some students choose to park off campus and walk a short distance instead of paying high fees. Sean Williamson, a UM student who parks at the Baptist Student Union, said cost is a factor.
“I can have a guaranteed place to park at the BSU for a quarter of the cost of what I could pay to sometimes park at the commuter lots,” he said, “and it’s only a bit longer of a walk.”
A parking pass at the BSU costs $20, while commuter parking cost $175, and a “Park-N-Ride” pass costs $75. There are only 40 parking spots at the BSU, but 150 students usually attend their worship events.
“I cannot park at the Jackson Avenue Center to take my math quizzes without borrowing somebody else’s car or dishing out cash for a decal,” Williamson said.
In the past year, the university has opened up the Silver Lot Residential Satellite Parking on Chucky Mullins Drive. This solution allows residential students to park if the parking lot outside their residence hall is filled. The major issue most students have about it is it’s too far away.
John Heard, a UM sophomore from Columbia, Tennessee, has a car on campus. As a community assistant at Luckyday Residential College, he is the main resource for students who need help. The Silver Lot is two miles from his dormitory.
He said Luckyday residents’ main complaint is it’s “inconvenient.” “I’ve had to take them a couple times,” he said, “or they usually take the bus or get a friend to take them.”
The university has taken action to provide adequate transportation to and from the parking lot and around town. For students who live on campus, a bus system runs to the Silver Lot from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. during the school week.
If students go home and return on Sunday night, they have to call the shuttle to take them to their dorm or call a friend.
Other problems have arisen when students fail to find adequate parking downtown. That’s why the Oxford Board of Alderman has created mandatory parking passes for residents of Tyler Avenue and South 5th Street. The lack of parking in Oxford means residents are required to have parking passes to park in front of their own houses.
Tate Hawkins is another student who uses the “Park-N-Ride” options. “There are just not enough spots for the amount of drivers,” he said. “There must be a way to make it more efficient.”