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The Parking Games

By Tra Friesen in Life

(Graphic by Diana Aristizabal)

“When it comes to parking on campus, I always feel like I’m participating in The Hunger Games,” said Clark student Karen DeSemple.

Most students won’t have to fight to the death for a parking spot, but sometimes it can feel like it.

An online 241-student poll conducted by The Independent from Sept. 29-Oct. 1 found that almost 80 percent of students had trouble finding a parking spot in the past week.

“Finding parking is the only reason I don’t even want to come to school,” said an anonymous student in a poll response.

Over half of students polled reported it took longer than 10 minutes to find a parking spot.

“I’m pretty sure the parking space to student ratio on campus is less than 1:25,” said an anonymous student in their poll response.

The city standard calls for one parking space for every three classroom seats. “By that standard we actually have a surplus of parking on the main campus,” said Vice President of Administrative Services Bob Williamson.

Williamson said the college believes that there are enough parking spaces on campus to meet student demand.

“If students would avail themselves of all the parking that is available, including all the parking that’s on the west side of Vancouver Way, the Purple lot and the Silver lot, I think students would find that there is sufficient parking.”

One of the most commonly proposed solutions in the poll was the construction of a multi-level parking garage.

(Graphic by Diana Aristizabal)

“Rather than building out, why not build up?” asked student Emmanuel Sanchez in his poll response. “In my opinion, this would help ease the stress of finding a parking spot.”

Williamson said the college looked into building a parking structure in the past but dismissed the idea for several reasons. One reason was that the state doesn’t provide money for parking structures.

“So the question then becomes: how does it get funded?” Williamson said.

Williamson said that because the college is located in Vancouver Central Park it has to abide by the Vancouver Central Park Master Plan and building a parking structure would disrupt the “green-space feel” of the park.

“That master plan strongly discourages, doesn’t outright prohibit, but strongly discourages the establishment of parking structures,” Williamson said.

Many students also proposed adding more angled parking for ease and safety.

(Graphic by Diana Aristizabal)

In the newly updated Facilities Master Plan college officials said within 15 years the Red and Green lots could be “reconfigured into angled parking to pick up 15-20 percent more parking spaces without enlarging the paved area.”

Williamson said he’s heard from students.

“I get lots of emails, many letters, an occasional phone call from a very unhappy student complaining about parking,” Williamson said. “I always invite that student to come see me at any time they are struggling to find parking and I guarantee them that if I walk over to the silver lot there will be 40 or 50 spots just waiting for somebody to park there.”

The poll found that roughly 6 percent of students use Purple lot and 4 percent use Yellow lot, while more than 57 percent of students reported parking in either Orange, Red, or Green lots, the three largest lots on campus.

Williamson said that he understands that parking in one of the farther lots, like Silver or Purple lot, requires a longer walk to get to main campus.

“Is it really a parking problem, or is it a walking problem?” Williamson asked.

One student said that after trying to park in the red lot on the first day of Fall quarter he got caught in a traffic jam in the south side of the lot. Since then he said he’s learned to “steer clear of that mess.”

“I save 10 minutes of being stuck inching through the parking lot behind other cars,” said a student who identified himself as Gary C. ”The cost is a couple more minutes of walking, which is a fair trade.”

Several poll respondents reported giving themselves enough time and still having trouble finding spots.

“I have to make sure I am at the campus an hour early just to find parking, and sometimes it still takes me the whole hour to find a spot,” said student Lauren Sherwin in her response.

Students who are willing to walk but still have trouble finding a spot may be in luck. The college hopes that the northern part of Yellow lot will be open by the end of Fall quarter, Williamson said. Right now half of Yellow lot is closed due to STEM building construction.

“In the meantime, fellow parkers, may the odds be ever in your favor,” DeSemple said.

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