At 7:57 a.m. on Monday morning, students frantically circled the main parking lot on the south side of campus looking for a parking space and found nothing.
This is the harsh reality most students find when they arrive on campus. With parking lots filling up minutes before 8 a.m. – hours before most classes even begin – students and faculty are left wondering if the parking situation will ever improve.
Too many students?
The construction of Academic Building V and new Mall Area are just a few reminders of the growth the university has been experiencing.
With unofficial enrollment bordering at 16,000 students, finding room to park is one of the most common issues on the minds of students and faculty alike.
“The more students we have, the more crowded our parking lots become,” said Chief of the University Police Department and Director of Public Safety Services Dennis Culak. “I don’t know of any University that doesn’t have the same situation – a growing student population with limited resources.”
With one glance at any UPD Parking and Traffic Regulations pamphlet, it’s obvious that there are a variety of different parking arrangements.
There are blue areas allocated for students with blue permits living in every residence hall except for the Bearkat Village Apartments, which is a green area.
There are white areas for faculty and staff members.
The orange areas encompass Stadium parking, which is cheaper than a normal parking permit.
There are also green areas that circle the entire campus. These areas are designated for students who commute to campus.
These colored lots create a delicate balance of space on campus. If students park in a certain lot without the appropriate colored permit, or without a permit at all, that creates problems for those who are actually designated to park there.
“The biggest issue we have is people parking without a parking permit,” Culak said.
Some students feel that those who reside in residence halls – including Bearkat Village – should walk and free up space for students who have to commute.
“Freshmen should be walking,” sophomore Brandon Albert said. “Their cars are here anyway.”
Culak also said students who live on campus should walk.
“What we recommend is that students in residence halls park as close as they can to their hall and avoid moving their vehicles unless they have to leave campus,” he said.
Last year an effort to encourage students to park in less congested parking lots, UPD started offering less expensive stadium parking to students willing to park next to the stadium only.
Orange Stadium Parking Permits cost $25 – which is $35 cheaper than the Green Commuter Parking Permits.
Culak said that despite this incentive, only two thirds of the Stadium parking lot is filled to capacity.
“I counted 98 available parking spaces on Thursday during the peak hours of 9:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.,” he said.
For more information about Stadium Parking, refer to the Parking and Traffic Regulations pamphlet or call UPD at 294-1794.
Five years ago, the university implemented a parking garage system to help combat parking congestion in other areas of campus.
The parking garage is located in the center of campus and includes 500 parking spaces for students and faculty.
Of those spaces, 250 are designated for hourly parking, while the other 250 are designated contract parking spaces.
Under contract parking, a student or faculty member can purchase a numbered parking space for $250 per semester. The student or faculty member can come or go however many times they choose with a contracted parking space.
Hourly parking costs only one dollar an hour. Time is calculated when the students or faculty members insert their credit cards into the entrance. When they leave, they enter their credit card again and the machine charges the card respectively.
If a car is parked in the garage for over 24 hours without leaving, then the maximum charge is only $5. If a car leaves, however, more could be charged if applicable.
The ground levels are designated for hourly parking. The next three floors have numbered contracted parking spaces and the hourly parking spots resume on the upper levels.
“About 50 [hourly] spaces on the top are always empty,” Culak said. “We have never completely filled the parking garage, and it’s the fifth year of operation.”
The parking garage is equipped with elevators, stairs and telephones for emergencies.
For more information about the Sam Houston Parking garage, visit the website at http://www.shsu.edu/~upd_www/garage/.
New Lots/ Changes
The university currently has several construction projects in process that will affect future parking arrangements.
According to Culak, the soon-to-be demolished Colony Apartments across the street from the Theatre building on the East side of campus will add a 300-space parking lot.
“They could be torn down as soon as November,” he said.
Culak also said the 75-space faculty and staff parking lot next to the Music Building will be lost due to the construction of a new Performing Arts Center.
The student lot directly to the East of the Theatre building will convert to a Faculty/Staff lot, but the lot that will be created from the Colony apartments would not put a strain on the balance.
One lot across from the Student Health Center will be lost to a new dining facility, but “there should be ample space when construction begins since the lot is only 50% occupied at this time,” Culak said.
Culak said that a faculty and staff parking lot and parking space for a residence hall was lost due to the construction of Academic Building V, but were relocated to the White Hall parking lot.
“Losing those lots put a large strain on this side of campus,” Culak said.
Culak said that Physical Plant Assistant Director John McCrosky came up with an idea to add additional parking to the Green Parking lot across from Bowers Stadium.
“There is a plan being discussed to put an elevated parking lot over the green lot next to Bowers Stadium,” Culak said. “You would be able to enter the elevated area through an entrance in the stadium. The terrain will support this plan.”
Parking Habits to Avoid
UPD is in charge of selling parking stickers and enforcing parking rules. Culak said UPD started to enforce parking regulations on Monday, August 27th.
“We give a week grace period, enforcing only flagrant violations such as parking in fire zones and handicapped spaces,” Culak said. “We will enforce parking violations for those without a permit starting this week.”
Culak said the UPD has student assistants walk around campus to give parking citations. The most common parking violation for students is parking without a permit, and the amount of money increases after each offense.
Culak said it is more efficient to buy a $60 parking permit rather than park without one and have to pay the fines.
“You’re first citation could cost $40, so spend the extra $20,” he said. “You can spend up to $200 for parking violations. Do the math.”
The university is constantly making changes to accommodate the steady rise of the student body, but students, faculty members and staff still wonder if the parking situation has been forgotten.
Several alternatives have already been proposed. According to Culak, however, students must also do their part.
“If you live in a residence hall, remember one thing: walk, don’t drive,” he said. “For other drivers, it’s about time management. Get to class 30 or 40 minutes early. If you only have a short time, park in the parking garage.”