Driving roads to parking woes

Can you think of two words that will put any Christopher Newport University student in a fury?

Parking Services—which “strive(s) to make parking and transportation at CNU a positive experience for everyone,” according to their page on the CNU website—is arguably one of the most hated offices on campus by students. Many students at CNU have a story in which they claim they were given a ticket unfairly or were charged a ridiculous amount for a disputable fine.

Although the university does allow every student to have a car on campus, the price for a full year on-campus decal is $250, one of the more expensive university parking decal rates in Virginia.

The College of William and Mary hits the top of list with a price of $354, with Longwood University not far behind CNU at $268.

Debora Poole, director of Parking and Transportation Services at CNU, explains where the money from decals and fines goes.

“Parking Services is part of Auxiliary Services and therefore receives no state or federal funds. Parking Services relies on decal fees and citation revenue to support the direct and indirect costs of operations. This includes but is not limited to: construction of new parking areas, maintenance of existing parking areas, enforcement, lighting, etc,” said Poole.

Back in 2000, before the 900-spot Ferguson parking deck and the East Campus deck were built, parking decals were priced at $100.

The campus had 2300 parking spots at the time.

Today, the 260-acre campus is filled with 5000 students, 3000 of which live on campus, according to the CNU website.

One small parking lot designated only for main campus students sits in front of James River Hall, while all students and staff, with the exception of East Campus students, are able to park in Lots E1 and E2, located in front of Warwick River Hall; lot I, located behind Potomac River Hall; and lot H, located at the baseball field.

The Ferguson parking deck is reserved for day students and faculty.

There are four faculty-only parking lots surrounding McMurran and Potomac.

A parking lot at the far end of campus on Moores Lane and one next to Harris Teeter are open to anyone with a valid decal.

CNU Landing, Greek Village and CNU apartments share two parking lots, while those students who live in the village may park only in the parking deck.

Main Campus students have three large parking lots to choose from, as well as the strip of road leading to James River Hall. All lots are open from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 a.m., with the exception of the East Campus lots, which require a valid decal at all times.

There is a mutual feeling across campus that based on the $250 parking decal, students should have the right to park anywhere on campus.

“I spend 15 minutes every day looking for a parking spot,” says off-campus resident Jess Kelly, who often has to park far away from her classes in McMurran.

Frustrated at the lack of open spaces, students get fined for parking in a lot in which their decal is invalid but feel as though they have valid reasons to park there.

Students are given the option to appeal their ticket, thus losing the privilege of getting it half off if paid within 24 hours.

“If a student decides they want to review their case, they are called before a committee made up of faculty and students. The person comes in and presents the facts in their case, and the committee reviews the parking handbook as they discuss it. After a decision has been made, the person comes back into the room and will be told what has been decided,” said Bobby Wieler, vice president of the Student Assembly and a member of the Parking Appeals Committee.

On their website, parking services has a list of unacceptable grounds for appeal, including lack of space, illegally parking for a few minutes, unread or misunderstood signs, and bad weather or darkness. The committee has received 150 appeals since the start of the school year, according to Poole.

Among other students, junior Michelle Best, who lives on East Campus, feels as though Parking Services needs to work on customer service. “Everyone knows that (the parking service staff’s) jobs can’t be great, because people are always going in their office to complain. But I hate feeling like they are just out to get my money.” She explains that she was recently fined $250 for parking in a visitor’s spot after being unable to find any other parking near her place of work at the David Student Union.

All of the fees and fines regarding parking are regulated by the Board of Visitors. “(The Board) control(s) all real estate and personal property of the University,” according to CNU’s website. They also have control over all rules and regulations concerning the university.

When asked what changes they wanted to see in Parking Services, students were more than happy to voice their opinions. Reducing the price of parking decals, adding more parking spaces closer to academic buildings, and adding more visitor parking were among the many changes they thought should occur. Wilson Beaver, a senior who lives off-campus, suggested having free two-hour parking spots available for students who simply want to grab some food at Regattas or bring a large project to and from school.

Parking plans for the future include a 275-spot parking deck at Rappahanock River Hall, and the third phase of Lot E along Prince Drew Road, which will be completed before the end of the semester, says Poole. The new lot, which is located near the tennis courts, will provide an additional 250 parking spaces. As of right now, freshmen will still be allowed to have cars on campus.