Some Wright State University students arrive hours early and others park at nearby businesses, all in an effort to find parking spaces.
“I think it’s ridiculous. They charge $160 for a parking pass, and you can’t even find a spot,” said Christian Hammonds, an 18-year-old second-year business management student at Wright State.
Students and parents said parking problems could affect everything from classroom performance to morale and enrollment decisions. However, Wright State officials said they have worked to address the issue, which they said is not worse than previous school years.
Hammonds says he parks at a nearby Meijer three days a week and walks up to 30 minutes to class.
Local university officials say parking is always an issue at schools, especially during the first few weeks of class. Wright State students in particular were vocal last week on social media about their parking discontent.
“I really loved paying over $100 for a pass and then parking at Meijer because there were no spots available,” said Tyler Pence on this newspaper’s social media page.
Pence isn’t alone. In fact, during a five-minute span on Friday, this newspaper counted 13 students walk in and out of Meijer’s parking lot towards the university — most were carrying book bags.
“I park at Meijer. It’s easy to get in and out,” said Mark Meyer, an 21-year-old who transferred from a community college in Illinois to play baseball at Wright State.
Meijer management said they don’t distinguish between patrons and those who are loitering. That’s because it would be hard to enforce.
Nearby Gigi’s Cupcakes requires its employees to have a parking tag in their cars, because “it got so bad last year.”
Wright State officials say parking isn’t any worse than past years.
“It’s always perceived as an issue,” said Robert Kretzer, director of parking transportation at WSU. “The big difference on why you are hearing more about it is social media.”
However, Kretzer acknowledges the university has room to improve.
This year the university made a handful of changes to improve parking, including adding a second shuttle and expanding its pickup area further into Fairborn. In October, WSU will roll out a phone app that allows students to track a shuttle’s location.
Meanwhile, some social media commenters argued it affects student academics.
“I have countless students come in visibly angry or crying from frustration,” said Kristie McKiernan, an English lecturer at WSU, wrote on this newspaper’s Facebook page. “It is really terrible that we have such a huge community of commuters and yet we are not meeting their needs. I worry we lose some students to this issue.”
In addition, some commenters say they chose other schools because of the situation.
“The extreme lack of parking was one of the determining factors when making a college choice for our daughter. We did not choose Wright State. We know of many students who get to school an hour early just to be able to find a parking spot,” said Chris Hayden Lewis in a Facebook post.
“They do a great disservice to their students who are paying thousands of dollars to attend class,” Lewis wrote.
A few students told this newspaper they would like to see a parking garage. According to the university’s most recent master plan, a parking garage could be on the horizon.
“At this point we don’t have a lot of areas to build out, and no one really wants to go into the wooded area,” Kretzer said.
Turning one of its parking lots into a parking garage would not be cheap.
Kretzer says the university estimates a parking garage would cost between $15,000 to $20,000 per spot, compared to $3,000 to $5,000 for a space in a parking lot.
Building garages, he said, can also increase the price students pay.
WSU charges $61 per semester for a parking pass. Meanwhile, students at the University of Cincinnati pay anywhere from $198 to $481 per semester. That’s somewhat a result of almost all of UC’s available parking being located in parking garages.
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