Parking squeeze pushes some student car owners off campus

With the return of students to campus this fall came the usual influx of cars to the Williams community. With that came problems with parking.

According to Dave Boyer, assistant director of security, the increase in class sizes at the College in recent years has made parking space a problem. “Any times the numbers increase, the problems increase,” Boyer said.

Parking space and regulations are issues that many colleges face, Boyer said. “If you called college security offices all along the Northeast and asked them what their biggest problem is, they’d probably say alcohol or parking,” he said.

Currently, there are 1,595 parking spaces on campus – 639 allocated to students, 771 to faculty and staff and the remainder to visitors, service vehicles and handicapped parkers. According to Boyer, Security attempts to offer as many spaces as possible to students each year, but the demand is always greater than what is available.

The trend seems to have appeared only within the last six or seven years. Seven years ago, Boyer said, students could register their cars at any time throughout the year and the parking spaces on campus were not completely filled until after spring break. Last May, however, all of the spaces had already been issued for the 2000-2001 college year, and Security had to close down the online registration system earlier than usual.

In order to park on campus, student cars must be registered and a decal designating a particular lot must be placed on the car’s back windshield. If a car is parked in a lot on campus other than in that lot for which it has been issued, the student will receive a ticket. Exceptions include weekday nights between the hours of 6 p.m. and 2 a.m. and Saturdays from 1 p.m. to 2 a.m.

Security recently appointed a Parking Appeals Committee – which consists of student, faculty and staff representatives – to review ticket appeals. It has also distributed a new flier designed to more specifically alert new drivers on parking rules.

Boyer argued that this system is better than a more generalized system where students can park anywhere on campus, but some students say they are restricted by designated parking areas, and many resort to parking just off campus. Problem areas include the lot for St. Patrick’s Church on Southworth Street and parking along the sides of Spring Street, which has become a one-way traffic zone.

According to Boyer, the College maintains a good relationship with the church, doing some parking lot maintenance in return for the use of the space. He also noted that student parking on Spring Street should not and does not seem to create a major problem because “generally, people using the businesses are parking there, [although] we understand that that’s not always the case.”

In order to solve the parking problems, Boyer said, “basically, we [would] almost need to change this to a walking campus.” But he also recognizes the students’ right to bring their cars to Williams, and the inevitability of parking issues and ticketing. He mentioned that the College is working on a plan that should eventually open up more parking at the rear of Thompson, which could possibly connect down to the lots adjacent to Poker Flats. Security has already recently established 18 more visitor spaces near Greylock, and plans to create more around the north side of campus.

Some students have called into question the necessity to drive just a few minutes to a place right across campus and have advocated the use of bicycles to remedy parking problems. Jon Wiener ’02 is spearheading a program intended to provide 30 community bicycles to students on campus who agree to deposit $10 and sign a waiver.

“Reducing car trips by providing access to other good modes of transportation is the only long-term solution for the parking crunch such as the one on campus,” Wiener said. “More parking spaces will only make for more cars, and the problem will come up again in a few years.”

But other students express the need for their cars to reach places outside of Williamstown. “Coming from a city, I’m used to taking the subway or the bus everywhere, and there are no options like those here,” Jasmine Mitchell ’03 said. “Williams is so self-contained, and sometimes you just need to get off campus.”

Liz Mygatt ’03 is a member of the Williams women’s crew team, which holds many practices at Lake Onota in Pittsfield, approximately one half-hour from campus by car. “The bus didn’t show up last Tuesday, and so two others and I ended up driving the whole team to practice,” Mygatt said. “We would have been stuck here without those three cars.”

“At the same time, I think it’s lame how much people drive their cars,” she continued. “This is such a beautiful campus that we should all just chill out and plan the time we need to walk wherever we need to go.”