It’s Not All Fine: Commuter Parking in Crisis

As more students than ever before have arrived at Colby, some students have expressed dismay at the lack of parking on campus.

This morning, I spent 20 minutes driving around the Mary Low and Bobs parking lots looking for a single space, a familiar experience for many of the students living off-campus this year.

As most of us know, Colby had a record year for admissions this past spring. This yielded a class of more than 500 students that have made our campus more diverse, competitive, and crowded. Colby needs a significant portion of the student body to live off-campus so that it can provide enough housing for these new first-years. This amounts to at least 80 students that, had they not sought alternative housing, would have significantly complicated the dorm situation on campus this year.

Signs on Colby’s campus at- tempt to help students navi- gate new parking regulations.

Almost all of the students that live off-campus rely on cars to get to and from campus. In past years, Mary Low has had ample and convenient parking for the students who live off-campus. The first row of that parking lot has always been designated as commuter parking. Many of us chose to live off-campus because we assumed we would be provided these same accommodations that make living off-campus a feasible alternative to dorms or the senior apartments.

This has not proven to be true this year. Many of us were shocked to receive tickets on the first day of school when we tried to park in what was formerly the commuter parking row. This row is now visitor parking, a piece of prime parking lot real estate that is al- most always empty. Mary Low has gained more designated faculty and staff park- ing on the sides of the rows closest to Diamond, again limiting the number of spots available to those who drive to school each day. The actual number of commuter spots does not even begin to appropriately service the number of students that live off-campus.

Worse still, huge fines have been levied on those who do not follow the parking rules. Parking fines have gone up significantly this semester, in the range of hundreds of dollars. It seems unfair to charge absurd amounts of money for new parking regulations of which we were never made aware. Security never sent out any email or information regarding these new practices. The signs that mark where you can or cannot park are small and easy to miss.

Many off-campus residents have been late to class because of the lack of parking spots in Mary Low. Bobs lot is an even worse offender, with an open spot being a rare occurrence. It is typically a waste of time to look for a spot in Bobs lot during the day. Hillside is located far from any academic building and is especially inconvenient for those who live off-campus.

A large majority of off-campus residents that I have spoken to about park- ing are deeply unsatisfied with the way that things are right now. Based on what I have heard, I propose a few changes. One suggestion is to designate a parking lot during certain hours for staff and commuter parking only. This would leave two full parking lots for students with cars who live on campus and provide commuters and staff with available parking. Another suggestion is to limit the number of cars that first years can have on campus. Those who live off-campus should take priority over the policy of free parking for all when access to parking spots is as limited as it is now.

While Colby has every right to change their policies and practices on park- ing, these changes should be made with appropriate consideration for the students who need to drive to school each day.