Kristen Dragotto, A&E Editor & Pablo Puig, Contributing Writer
Parking is a consistent concern for the University of Missouri–St. Louis on-campus students, a majority of whom are commuters. Simply getting to class on time has proven difficult for commuter students like Ariel Redel, senior, English.
Redel relies heavily on parking availability to reach classes on time. “I have a forty-minute commute and I am typically late for my first class two or three times a month,” Redel said.
While 2-3 times a month may seem to be a reasonably small amount, tardiness adds up for certain professors; not everyone is so understanding about the realities of student parking. Redel gave further input on the matter when she discussed whether or not coming to campus earlier would help in the matter. “I’d probably have a better chance of getting a space if I was able to get there earlier, but there would still be a lot of people going without. We can’t all show up at 6 a.m.,” Redel said.
Looking into UMSL’s parking situation through official channels proved to be a challenge. The Office of Parking and Transportation was unable to provide information on ticket issuing or the ratio of student to faculty spaces upon request, whereas the Office of Admission could not give a reliable estimate as to what percentage of UMSL students actually commute, with a former student employee of UMSL describing their approximation as “in the ballpark of 90%.” Seeing as over 10 thousand students are classified as “on-campus,” this suggests around nine thousand are stuck in daily competition for a reasonable spot.
A count of North Campus parking garages and lots suggests that, mathematically, there are often enough spaces for UMSL’s regular commuters. However, this investigation also discovered that preferential treatment in parking regulations is a greater issue; staff exclusive areas were consistently found to be placed in close proximity of high-traffic buildings, forcing students to park further from where classes typically take place. Though this distribution seems reasonable, as employees are expected to readily reach their work areas, it also indicates a codified imbalance in access. There are just under two thousand UMSL employees, who may park in all unrestricted lots and garages, including those ostensibly meant for student usage. While they are free to occupy any available space, with no obligation to consider those who lack such a privilege, students have no choice but to keep searching for a permitted spot, even if staff exclusive areas are unoccupied.
“There have definitely been times where I’ve had to leave a packed garage with empty faculty spaces,” Redel said. “I understand that it’s important that staff are able to park by their classes as well, but it makes me so frustrated that they’re sometimes going unused while us students are desperately driving around looking for a space.”
Compounding the issue of access, exposed parking areas have been allowed to deteriorate, rendering their boundaries increasingly unclear. It is a common sight to see parking violations in these outdoor spaces, likely in part due to faded markings. Left with little alternative, drivers may be incurring otherwise avoidable penalties through no true fault of their own. An examination of parking citation rates among students would allow more nuanced conclusions to be reached, but this information was not readily available from the Office of Parking and Transportation.
Viable solutions exist, if only UMSL’s population considers these issues worth addressing. Redel suggested increasing the number of accessible student spots, specifically on West Drive. Alternately, perhaps it would be more efficient to make a centralized lot or garage for UMSL staff and faculty, rather than scattering them throughout campus; remote areas could also be added to the campus shuttle route, which would address the resulting access inconveniences. Even simpler than that, the restoration of distinguishable road markings seems overdue, with relatively low costs and near-immediate results.
Regardless of what, if any, measures are taken to mitigate UMSL’s parking problems, it is apparent that improvement is both desirable and possible.