NIU community upset with parking

By Chris Nelson

A meeting of NIU’s parking committee last Thursday gave faculty and students the chance to discuss something more upsetting than the day’s rainy weather—the parking problems here at NIU.

At the meeting, the committee fielded questions and complaints concerning the parking situation. And at times, the atmosphere inside the small meeting room became as stormy as the weather outside.

The recent decision by administrators to alter the parking environment at NIU was intended to create a greater availability of parking in the future. In the interim, however, many people driving to campus are finding the new situation extremely inconvenient.

NIU faculty members appeared to be the most distraught over the parking crisis. The closing of lots near Founders Memorial Library, combined with the City of DeKalb’s decision to close Garden Road to parking, has forced faculty members to make alternative plans. One faculty member, Sociology Professor Robert Suchner, labeled the new situation a “major fiasco.”

In an effort to accommodate those put off by the construction and related lot closures, the parking committee has attempted a number of measures.

Ironically, NIU does not have fewer spaces than it did prior to construction. In fact, with the opening of several remote lots, there was actually a net gain of a few spaces. However, the remote location of these new lots tends to make them less than appealing.

In response to this problem, the committee established a shuttle bus system last spring to ferry individuals from the remote lots to NIU campus sites.

An audit of ridership during the first two weeks of the semester operations showed that on average only 40 people a day were using the shuttle system. A majority of those people were going to the Human Resources Building, located west of the water tower on Lincoln Highway.

Those attending the meeting speculated the shuttle does not have a schedule that allows for riders to arrive at their destinations on time. Consequently, staff members are choosing to park on streets in neighborhoods surrounding the university.

NIU student Stacey Spletzer, a member of the committee, called into question the parking permit fee structure used by the university.

Spletzer contended the university ought to adopt a system allowing permit users to buy on a semester basis or at least return permits for a refund when they are no longer needed.

The committee acknowledged the concerns raised and agreed to review them for action.

Patty Perkins, assistant to the vice-president of Finance and Planning, urged everyone to realize that the parking problems are not long-term and are a sacrifice for a long-term benefit.

“This is a temporary problem. We have to grasp that concept. Those who don’t get this must be brain dead,” Perkins said.