Townhouses are a double-edged sword

A student returning to St John’s after an absence of a year or more would probably notice a few obvious changes to the University’s appearance since his or her departure. Perhaps the first difference that student would find would be the construction of the new townhouses over a large section of what was once a commuter parking lot. That same student might then ask him or herself, “Where are all those students going to park now?”

That would be a very good question. Many current students have been asking the exact same thing.
It has been clear since before the Fall semester began that parking would be a major concern this year for St John’s commuters, who make up about 80 percent of the student population.

A substantial volume of the previous year’s parking was no longer available, and since the University’s enrollment has been growing steadily each year, there was bound to be a shortage of parking spaces.

The University foresaw the problem as well, and did take some measures in an attempt to stem the overcrowding. The parking complex located by the lacrosse field, only part of which had been available to students in previous years, has been completely opened for parking. In addition, resident parking has been moved from the lot by Gate 6 to inside the former-ROTC complex. The parking by Gate 6 is now general parking. The lot outside of Gate 1 has been opened for student parking as well.

All of these measures sounded good in theory, but whether or not they would solve the parking problem could not be known until school began. It is now two weeks into the fall semester and the results of the parking changes can be seen; it does not look good.

Although the additional parking that was made available did help to relieve some of the overcrowding, there are still not enough spaces to go around. Many students are forced to circle the packed lots over and over before finding a space at the top of the parking complex or even off campus. This is extremely frustrating, especially when students paying hundreds of dollars for parking passes are forced to park on the street. The problem is not just limited to the early morning rush, either. The lots remain filled from the early morning until much later in the afternoon.

Students are also complaining about the lot located next to the Law School. It usually has plenty of open spaces, except they are all labeled “Faculty” or “Staff” parking. If there are so many vacant spots by the Law School, then maybe part of that lot should be made available for student parking as well.

On top of the fact that the townhouse construction project itself has taken away a large portion of commuter parking, the workers who have been hired to do that construction are parking in the section of that lot which has been left open for students. These workers are not paying two to five hundred dollars a year to use those spots, so why should they be entitled to them over the students?

The construction of resident housing on top of former commuter parking lots and all the problems accompanying it could easily be placed in the category of “growing pains” for a university undergoing expansion, and the issue could simply be left at that.

However, it is also the responsibility of the University to deal with the problems it faces today, even while it looks to the future. Hopefully the solution to the commuter parking issue is found sometime closer to the present.