Students struggle daily to find parking

With a vast number of students commuting to campus and not nearly enough parking, the university needs to find new ways to accommodate commuters as it increasingly affects students ability to learn.

According to a Feb. 19 Northern Star poll, 71 out of 80 students, or 88 percent, said they have been late to a class due to parking issues. It is unreasonable for parking to be an obstacle to academic success.

“All the yellow spots [commuters] can park in are filled,” Ethan Hoffman, junior psychology and political science double major who is also the director of organization development in the Student Association, said. “[Blue spots] are empty.” 

Blue passes are for faculty, and staff and yellow passes are for commuters.

NIU spokesperson Joe King said there are 3,309 faculty and staff members on campus. To accommodate their parking needs, there are 4,111 mixed first come, first serve blue spots, 1,799 of which are blue-only parking, according to information obtained from a Feb. 15 FOIA request.

Of the 3,309 faculty and staff, there were 2,833 blue passes purchased, including annual and spring passes, according to Parking Services. There is an extra 3,077 spots than parking passes purchased.

Jessica Totz, associate coordinator of Parking Services, said commuters are not only those who have to drive from far away, but also students who live in DeKalb.

Not all commuters buy parking passes either. There are 6,019 passes in use by students this spring, including annual and spring-only passes, according to Parking Services. Students have 1,030 yellow-only spots and 4,309 mixed first come, first serve yellow spots.

Parking Services has sold 680 more student passes than there are spots; this explains why parking is such a big issue. In addition, the number of spots allocated to students drops significantly when it snows, as plows leave piles of snow in the commuter-only spots.

The lack of student spots results in students being late to class or tests and potentially losing points, whereas teachers can be late without penalty. 

“There have definitely been times I have missed class altogether when there [were] no parking spots,” Hoffman said. “There have been times I have been very late to class because I had to run from the parking lot.”

It is impossible for everyone with a pass to park, and, while commuters may not all be on campus at the same time, there should still be enough spots to accommodate them.

Adding to this, there are 571 more faculty and staff spots than student spots.

Laura Lundelius, director of Campus Services, said every semester, Parking Services conducts surveys throughout the day, multiple days a week, to try to assess the parking situation. From these surveys, they decided where to allocate spots. Lundedlius reallocating spots could be as simple as moving a sign or creating a few more signs and replacing old ones.

While surveys are a good idea in theory, they do not seem to be achieving Parking Services’ goal when it comes to efficientlyallocating spots.

“There’s a lot of full-time staff who park here, and they don’t come and go [throughout the day],” Lundelius said. “Commuter students usually aren’t here all day every day; there is more of a turnover of spaces for students than there is faculty and staff.”

While this may be the case, the fact remains student spots are oversold and faculty spots are not, and students complain about parking —faculty and staff do not.

Students need more than just the reallocation of a few spots. To ease the burden of this issue, the university should consider another location for a lot. Lincoln Hall has been condemned for years and does nothing but take up space. While this could be costly, the university should consider turning the space into a yellow lot as it could be the difference between students going to class or not.

Until serious changes are made, students will have to continue to struggle to park and will probably continue to be late or choose not to attend because of poor parking options. Student parking needs serious help, whether it be reallocating spots or finding somewhere to build another lot.