Tickets reflect parking problems for KSU students

A close up of Parking Services employee Adam Nowicki as he issues a parking ticket for a vehicle parked in the wrong lot, Monday, March 10, 2014.

Katherine Schaeffer

Perched on Hilltop Drive is a row of Kent State’s most historic buildings — elegant century-old structures, separated by hilly expanses of lawn and shaded by trees older than the university itself.

Unfortunately, this cluster of architectural history poses a unique challenge to the university’s Parking Services, which struggles to create parking in a section of campus where construction options are limited.

According to Parking Services’ records, the heaviest ticketing on campus happens in five lots located on front campus near the academic buildings farthest from lots designed for student parking, which are concentrated on the newer sections of campus.

Last semester, Parking Services issued 19,838 total tickets, a number almost double its 11,500 available parking spaces. But ticketing on the five front campus lots exceeds that, with tickets numbering more than four times the amount of parking spaces.

Although there are only 1,531 total spaces among these five lots, Parking Services issued 34 percent of its tickets there last semester. Almost half of these violations were issued to cars without a pass displayed, and 22 percent of those tickets were given to cars displaying passes for other lots.

Front campus, home to Kent State’s flagship schools of fashion, journalism and psychology, is a hub of student and faculty activity. Parking Services manager Larry Emling said that despite the demand, there is very little student parking on the front end of campus, mainly because there isn’t space to build additional lots.

“When those (buildings) were built 100 years ago, some of them, but not all of them, parking really wasn’t an issue,” Emling said. “When they were built up on Hilltop Drive there, there’s not that much parking to support those buildings. It pretty much addresses the faculty and staff needs, but that’s about it.”

Four of these five lots are faculty-only during the day. (The large commuter lot in front of the music and speech building is designated for student parking.)

Students looking to shorten their walk to classes often park in unauthorized areas, the main reason for ticketing in front campus’ four largest lots: R7 — the lot Bowman and Satterfield Halls share, R16 — located behind White Hall, R2 BSA — the lot behind the Business Administration Building and R-1 Rockwell — the lot shared by the schools of fashion and journalism.

Adam Nowicki, senior paralegal studies major and three-year Parking Services employee said the convenience of student parking on campus varies depending on location.

“If you have class on front campus — like Kent Hall, Cartwright — the only place you can park is either Midway or C Campus Center, and it’s always such a long, long walk,” Nowicki said. “But people who go to school by the Science Mall, C Science, it’s pretty convenient for them.”

Emling said Parking Services does its best to ensure passes are available for every student who needs one. Often, students run into problems with parking availability when they’re looking to buy a permit for a specific area.

“The space is not always where everybody wants to be,” Emling said.

“People walk into the office, and they’ll ask for a certain permit, and we’ll say that we’re sold out. We’ll give them other options, but they don’t buy anything. And later, I’ll hear nothing was available. There’s always something available. Is it what they want necessarily? Maybe not. But there’s always something that would give them a legal parking option to choose from.”

Chris Conrad, a senior economics major, has been working as a student enforcement officer for Parking Services since his freshman year. Conrad said the frequent parking violations on front campus are often a result of students not being able to park conveniently.

“I would say parking is a bane to this university’s existence,” Conrad said. “There’s not enough of it, but what are you gonna do?”

Conrad, who has experienced campus parking both as an enforcement officer and a commuter student, agreed the root of campus parking problems isn’t parking’s availability but its location.

“From a student and employee perspective, we need to build parking decks,” Conrad said. “It’s a long time coming.”

Emling said that Parking Services has been mulling over the idea of building a parking garage on campus for several years. But because Parking Services is an auxiliary operation, meaning that it doesn’t receive university funding and instead generates most of its revenue from permit sales and ticket payments, the expense of a large construction project would present challenges.

“If we would build something like that, we would need to be able to cover the cost of that parking structure,” Emling said. “It would be financed over 20 years with a bond or something like that. But we would have to have additional income each year to cover that cost, plus our current expenses.”

Emling said that in order pay for parking garage construction, Parking Services might need to raise the price of permits, a move he isn’t sure will benefit students in the long run.

“It’s just something we have to look at — what are the trends for the university and does it make sense to do that right now,” Emling said. “Enrollment is the highest it’s been, so it would make sense at this time, but will it continue to go up? Will it peak? Will it go down? Those kind of things come into play.”

Emling said for now, Parking Services reassesses parking needs each year, sometimes rearranging lots to add meters or student, visitor or staff parking as needed. However, because of the limited parking in front campus, students with classes there might still need to find alternative transportation once they park.

“(The campus) is designed pretty much to park and walk, then, once you get on campus for the day either to walk or take a shuttle or take a bike or use the Flashfleet or some other alternative method to get around the campus,” Emling said.

Contact Katherine Schaeffer at [email protected].