NIU parking desperately needs improvement


Nyla Owens

An Overview of Lot C that was taken Tuesday afternoon from DuSable Hall. (Nyla Owens | Northern Star)

By Angelina Padilla-Tompkins, Opinion Editor

Parking at NIU has been proven to be a struggle that most students are dealing with, they deserve a better parking system. 

Roughly half of NIU students are commuters, according to Joe King, associate director for Institutional Communications

Students are stressed each day as they struggle to find parking, yet the faculty parking lots never seem to be full. 

Commuter Ariana Schuster, sophomore sociology major with an emphasis in criminology, knows all too well the struggle of trying to find parking near her classes. 

“If I want to get a parking space near my lecture hall, I need to be there at least an hour before my class,” Schuster said. “I typically get to Northern (Illinois University) by 8:30, 9 a.m. but my first class on Monday/Wednesday doesn’t start until 12:30, put that into perspective.” 

To avoid this, Schuster said they would like to see more available parking for students on campus. 

John Heckmann, associate vice president of NIU facilities management and campus services, explains that the parking strategies are evolving over time based on what they observe to be the needs of staff as well as students. 

“Like a lot of things, it’s a little bit of science and technical assessment and a little bit of art. So you try something, you see what the behavior patterns of the parking demands are and you make adjustments over time,” Heckmann said. “You know, to try to realize where faculty and staff need to have some parking and then where can we fill in with student parking.” 

It is clear that a new adjustment needs to be made for student parking.  

Heckmann wants to urge students to think about taking the Huskie Bus Line, walking or riding a bike. However, for commuters, those aren’t always viable options. 

The majority of the academic year takes place during the cooler months when it is harder to ride a bike or walk to class. Furthermore, commuting students still need to get on campus before they can take the Huskie Bus. 

Schuster doesn’t utilize the Huskie Bus Line because as a commuter, she still needs to get to campus from her hometown. 

“Honestly, I think commuters just want to get somewhere and park and be done with everything, then walk,” Schuster said. 

The Peters Campus Life Building has a plethora of resources geared specifically toward students, the building even has a small lounge for commuters. However, there is no parking near the building for students. 

The building instead only has parking for staff or a pay-by-hour lot. Students are already paying for a parking pass, they should not have to pay again to park near the building that houses the resources they need. 

“The pay mechanism is a good way to keep vehicles moving,” Heckmann said. “So you know, someone doesn’t come in and take this spot for the entire day.

Regardless of how the university attempts to rationalize its decision to push students to pay more for parking, students deserve accessible parking near their resources and they shouldn’t have to pay extra for it. 

Another aspect the university hasn’t thought about enough is the students who fall between the line of student and staff: student workers. 

“That’s an interesting dynamic that maybe gets overlooked and maybe not captured very well in our parking program. The difference between a student and an employee and that in-between stage with the student-employee,” Heckmann said. “So that’s a good aspect that maybe we need to wrestle with a bit more.”