By: Christopher Vreugdenhil
After our fourth week of classes, “I have nowhere to park!” is not an uncommon grievance and definitely not without any fact behind it. The SAC and Northside parking lots are filled to the brim by 11 a.m., Monday through Friday. The packed parking extends to the EA lot on the other side of campus and the respective “remote” parking by the Admin building. It seems the only way to get a space is to have an early class or come to campus early. There are also many grumbles with faculty or staff not using their parking spaces or parking in general student spaces as well. But can we really do anything about it?
The IU South Bend campus currently has 4,446 students enrolled this year, a surprising rise from last year in which the campus was headed into a downward trend in enrollment. This surprise, while a welcome one, caused a shortage of parking passes. With the projected numbers to be less than last year, the amount of parking passes that were ordered could not withstand the demand for them. For a while, students were left in parking limbo, being told to put their receipt in their dashboard in the meantime. The online services also had an issue in which, once the online registration ran out of physical permits to send out, temporary permits were unavailable. Dr. Lars T. Schlereth, Director of Fiscal Affairs, says that they “will be working with central services to fix that issue, but also intend to always have sufficient supply on hand in the future so this does not recur.”
Of the 2,724 parking spaces, 1,864 are available for general student parking, which is 68% of the parking on campus. While these parking spaces are only 42% of the student body, the staff and faculty have a similar ratio of spaces at 325 parking spaces for 785 faculty and staff, or 41%. This seems perfectly reasonable, but it doesn’t solve the problem of students needing parking. The parking lot has been the same size for a while, trying to accommodate its varying number of students from semester to semester. When asked if there was any plan to change the amount of parking available, Dr. Schlereth said, “I am not aware of any such plans at this time, and to my knowledge, I would suspect the first step would be more utilization of the parking garage, which, even during the first two weeks of campus, saw minimal parking on the second level.”
The parking garage is a useful commodity for students with easy access to Wiekamp Hall. However, as Dr. Schlereth pointed out, it is not very utilized. Some students find it unsettling or cramped, but others have pointed out that they did not realize they could use the parking garage. It offers 647 spaces of general student parking, which could take off some of the burden of the lots. However, only 386 spaces are available in the parking garage, as the top floor has been blocked off due to safety issues. There is currently no plan to fix this in the near future, but Dr. Schlereth commented, “we will be embarking upon a master planning exercise related to the parking lots later this month, and better utilization of the parking garage is a definite topic.”
While it seems IU South Bend has been facing a parking deficit for a while, it could be worse. Dr. Schlereth pointed out that the lot is the same size as it was in 2010 when there were 8,484 enrolled students. If you are struggling to find a parking space, check the parking garage first, as well as Northside Boulevard, which offers public parking along both sides of the road.
It does seem like administration at IU South Bend is trying to address the parking enigma, but is IU South Bend parking a losing battle? Only time will tell.