Pick Your Poison With Campus Parking
Published: Wednesday, November 14, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, November 14, 2012 14:11
There once was a time when very few college students had the luxury of access to an automobile whenever they wanted. Thus, enough campus parking was probably never much of a concern then. As enrollment increased at NDSU, dependence on cars grew while more of them continued to be put into circulation it was likely inevitable for parking availability and ticketing issues to become a recurring problem. I learned this the hard way back in 1993.
Although it was a direct result of my own stubbornness to not pay the newly increased $35 on-campus annual parking fee, the writing of a $100 check for the release of my vehicle from an impound lot stung quite a bit. The annual charge had more than doubled from the previous year, but I had effectively found a way to multiply it by over seven times. Despite having to cough up a century note, it really helped me put into perspective as to how much of a bargain we residents were getting.
If there’s any consolation for those of us who have been ticketed or even towed, maybe it can be the fact that 50 percent of the revenue collected by the city comes back to campus. Until student government requested a cut in 1990, NDSU wasn’t seeing any of it. I suppose that makes me feel a tad bit better about my past civil disobedience in that a portion of my contributions were for the benefit of other students as well as faculty.
With that said, I highly doubt that anybody who ends up with a campus parking ticket is willing to take that risk for charitable rather than convenience reasons (especially when it’s 30 below zero in January). During the early ‘90s, mostly students who lived away from campus showed much frustration. They felt that the lack of opportunity to park near their destination was inadequate, which caused some to throw the dice by parking in an unassigned lot that would give them a shorter distance to walk.
“Students’ problems with parking aren’t because of a lack of space, but with students who think they should be able to park unreasonably close to their classes,” said then acting NDSU police chief. “This is simply not feasible as there’s substantial parking on the lots around campus.”
During my time back on campus over the past few months I’ve noticed that the current chief could make the same claim as Lee did 20 years ago if some grumbling arose. It appears to me that NDSU has done just fine in providing enough parking with more than 8,100 available spots for faculty staff and students. Yes, enrollment now tops 14,000, but still not everybody has a car or the same class schedule. Not to mention, how many now take most if not all of their classes online?
In order to keep up with demand, it’s noticeable that some lots have been expanded and new ones have been constructed. The FA lot north of the Niskanen complex was still old farmland when I left in ‘97 and the HR, R and T lots had not yet been added onto. Curiously, though, some of the R lot addition has now been claimed by the new indoor track and field complex.
When parking lot additions and maintenance get approved, the cost has to be passed off somewhere and, a lot like a toll road, the users generally help pay the cost. In 1999 the parking permit fee nearly doubled again to $60 and then shot up to $80 in 2003, which was still a pretty good deal compared to many other universities. Both of those amounts were also still considerably less than the triple digit amount I chosen to donate to the student government fund toward the end of the ‘94 spring semester.
Other than the rising price of a mirror-hanging permit, some of the aforementioned complaints lingered into the new millennium. According to a Spectrum report, the struggle for commuters to find parking in their assigned lots was still about as challenging as it was a decade earlier. There were even suggestions made that a multi-level ramp should be built to solve the problem once and for all. An anticipated construction estimate of up to $10,000 per spot quickly struck down any further thoughts of pursuing such a project.
In reality, the sea of parking spots surrounding the Fargodome is just as good as any massive ramp as long as busses are there to consistently shuttle students to their classes on time. I’ve actually been very impressed with amount of permit holders along with many others who take advantage of this service.
As far as I can recall, there was a lone short bus that tooled around campus and up to the University Village 15-20 years ago. Ridership seemed to be quite sparse throughout that span and we often chuckled about how it almost always drove by with nobody aboard. Now I can’t even begin to come up with a count when the bodies pour off and on at most stops.
Both then and now, my commute to class has always been less than a mile, so I can’t relate to those who can’t find a spot in the lot that they have paid for. It must be infuriating to look for alternatives when it is completely full. However, whether you pay the $155 or the $60 to park and ride the bus is always an option.
I was recently surprised to find out that City of Fargo impound lot release fee still rests at $100, which for a ridiculous split second caused me to think that was a better deal than buying a permit. It’s sometimes kind of nice to find out some things like that haven’t changed, though. Another thing that hasn’t changed since 1994 is how getting that piece of permitting plastic sooner rather than later is the best way to go.