Problem with parking incurs unwanted fines

As Oakland University construction continues with ongoing projects, parking has made its way as the main problem on campus for some students.

Over the summer, various parking lots werecreated in an effort to ease some of the anticipated congestion. Parking lots P-11 and P-37 had turf added to make more spaces and specific Bear Bus routes that were designed to transport students to and from buildings.  Oakland UniversityPolice Department officers were strategically placed at the Adams entrance, as well as a second stop sign on Meadow Brook Road to direct traffic.

“The police directing traffic actually made getting into campus a lot easier,” Gabrielle Schulte, a junior majoring in communications, said. “I thought it was very helpful and definitely allowed more students to get into the campus quicker.”

Emails were sent to students before the start of fall semester advising they get to school an hour early to find parking.  Some students were looking forward to getting to class at a time that worked more to their advantage.

“The fact that in order to find a parking spot you must arrive at least an hour early is ridiculous,” said Jennifer Payter, a junior majoring in health science. “Trying to leave campus is a nightmare as well, when the classes all get out around the same time. I sat in traffic in the circle for 25 minutes just trying to leave the campus. Then you combine all of theconstruction outside of campus and in the surrounding areas? I live 15-20 minutes away, but I need an hour to get to class.”

With the parking lots filling faster, the OUPD has been giving out many more tickets, according to OUPD Lt. Melvin Gilroy.

“From Sept. 1 until Sept. 12, we wrote 387 parking tickets and many of them are flagrant,” Gilroy said. “Fifty people parked on the newly sodded grass in P-1 and 218 of those 318 tickets were issued for parking in a non-designated parking area. That’s over 50 percent of the citations.”

According to Gilroy, the number-one parking violation is parking the handicapped parking spots.  OUPD will tow the cars of repeat offenders.

“We issued 22 tickets to people that were wrongly parked in handicapped spaces so far this year,” Gilroy said. “The people that park in those spots or use other people’s permits are not only violating the law, but are creating problems for the people that actually need them. If you don’t have enough moral character to stay out of those spots, then we don’t have any sympathy once so ever.”

Tickets for parking in a handicapped spot are $50 for each offence, and double to $100 when someone gets caught using a family member’s permit. All other parking violations are $20.

Despite the new parking spaces, none of the turf from P-11 and P-37 had been used, according to data collected by OUPD for the week of Tuesday, Sept. 7.  The data also indicates that the busiest time to park on campus is between 9:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Monday, Wednesday, Friday, while the easiest time to park is on Tuesday and Thursday,  any time during the day. There are also around 550 spots available in the parking structure located by Pawley Hall.

Parking should be less of a headache now that construction on Squirrel Rd. is in its final stages, less campus congestion is hoped, for according to vice president for finance and administration and treasurer for the board of trustees John Beaghan.

“With Squirrel Road reopening, students can now access campus from all directions without construction concerns,” Beaghan said. “This will greatly ease the Adams Road traffic as well as University Drive.”

Some students are looking forward to an easier entrance into the campus and the possibility of a better chance at finding a parking spot now that they can enter through the main entrance again.

“There wasn’t anyone on Squirrel today when I was on it,” said Andrea Kornylo, a sophomore majoring in English.  “I could tell it was repaved though, because the roads were less bumpy. It made getting to campus much easier. I plan on using it now to avoid the campus speed limit, and I can pull in to the parking lot right in where I need to park.”

Although parking lot problems may seem to arise from not being able to find an available space, some people like Gilroy believe that the problem is really about walking.

“What we have is not a parking problem, it’s a walking problem,” Gilroy said. “There are enough parking spaces on campus to accommodate every car, it’s just a matter of wanting to walk to your classes from them. There isn’t anywhere on campus that is more than a 10-15 minute walk.”

Sponsored by Oakland University Student Congress, the Division of Student Affairs, University Housing and Campus Recreation is another method to ease the walking distance for students. The OU Bike Share program started in fall 2009 and continues to this year with at least 60 new bikes on campus. These bikes allow students to get to class faster, and the bikes are available at various bike racks across campus.

“I occasionally ride the bike-share bikes,” said Kevin Swift, a senior majoring in information technology.  “Although they’re only one gear and it’s really hard to peddle up a hill. I like that all bikes are now the same and easily identified as a bike share bike. It makes more sense that way.”

To help students with longer walking distances, the Bear Bus service, which was originally intended to give OUstudents with valid school IDs transportation to various places around Rochester, was extended to get students to areas closer to the main part of campus during the week. One of the buses goes from P-11 to O’Dowd Hall, and the other one goes from P-37 and P-35 to Dodge and Elliot Halls.

Director of University Housing,  Jim Zentmeyer, said approximately 280 students used the Bear Bus this past weekend. He said the bus has seen a growing number of riders from the start of the semester, with expected dips during nice weather.

Zentmeyer said they expect the numbers to increase during the winter months.

“The Bear Bus is a nice offer, but I think having the service during the week is overkill now that we have the bike share bikes and we’re capable of walking,” Swift said. “The OU campus isn’t that big to walk through. Just get up 20 minutes earlier to get to class on time.”