ALEXANDRU ROTARU | ASSISTANT COPY EDITOR
Parking is a worldwide issue. From the bustling streets of historic European metropolises, to the busy streets of American cities like Indianapolis and Chicago, it can take more time to find parking than to get to your destination. Universities also face similar struggles: people have to get permits to park, and generally take a shuttle between class and their parking spot. Wabash used to be exempt of this issue, thanks to the Gentleman’s Rule. That is, until this year, when the parking occupancy rate reached 101%.
“We’re a campus with very little control over parking,” Director of Security Thomas Kearns said. “We don’t issue permits. We don’t have assigned lots. But, with that, at times, when you have problems, you don’t necessarily know you have them until it’s too late.” Until the college made a car count in September, they had no idea about the overcrowding.
According to the car count, there are 50 more student cars this year than there were in the spring semester. “And that’s with a lower student enrollment,” Chief of Staff Jim Amidon ‘87 said. “[The car count] includes 106 cars that were in unmarked spaces and 35 on streets really close to campus. 35 of those cars were parked in the grass, west of the Allen Center on Milligan Street. That can’t last forever, [particularly once] the ground starts freezing.”
However, the occupancy rate is not uniform across campus. “There were available spots in the Wilhoit at Pike lot [also known as the Lew Wallace lot, after the Hotel that used to be in its place],” Amidon said. “There were a lot of empty spots behind the football stadium. There were a lot of spots in the Fine Arts Center. So, we have three pretty large parking lots, that are underutilized.”
Some students have to strategize when it comes to choosing where they park. “I have a checklist,” Charlie LeBlanc ‘21 said. “If I can’t park behind my house, which is Teke [Tau Kappa Epsilon], I park at Kane House. If I can’t park at Kane House, I park at Trippet [Hall]. If I can’t park at Trippet, I park on Pike Street. Worst case scenario, I park at Lew Wallace [Pike at Wilhoit].”
Also, the upcoming renovations to the Stadium will take up a good chunk of the available parking. “Some of the parking in the areas immediately adjacent to Knowling Fieldhouse [will be lost],” Amidon said. “And the new football stadium will go farther southwest, and the stadium itself and its plaza will be on part of the Knowling Fieldhouse parking. So, we will lose maybe a third of the parking in the Knowling Fieldhouse lot just for the football stadium once it’s constructed.”
To address this situation, the administration created a parking committee, made up of Amidon, Kearns, LeBlanc – who is living in a fraternity on the east side of campus -, and Micah Keller ‘21 – who lives in the Ott Residential District.
The administration believes that towing is not a viable option for solving the parking crisis. They actually wish that there would have been a way to prevent towing in the first place. “I think there has been some misunderstanding about this,” Amidon said. “There is a company that comes through, and looks for illegally parked vehicles in our main parking lots and around the Mall. The college does not profit from that, and typically does not call that company and say, ‘come to this car.’ It is a random patrol that they do. And that arrangement was created when the Fire Department urged us to eliminate parking around the Mall and in other places so that they can have better access to our buildings. […] We basically made a deal with the Fire Department that we would keep cars off yellow curbed areas so that their fire trucks could get where they needed to go. And that’s why Wilson Towing comes through, to make sure our people are doing that, so that we keep our agreement with the Fire Department, because we don’t want anything bad to happen with a fire or a loss of life because a fire truck couldn’t get to where it needs to go.” “I really hate the whole aspect of towing vehicles,” Kearns said.
Unfortunately, given that parking near residences has become an issue, and any new lots cannot be built until the spring, Wabash men will have to hold each other accountable. Also, “we need to change the [parking] culture so that people understand that walking two blocks to your car is [perfectly fine],” Amidon said.
Thankfully, among the plans of the committee is to build a new 105-space lot on the west side of campus some time next year. In the meantime, the committee would love to hear any suggestions you may have that will improve parking. You can reach out to student representatives Charlie LeBlanc ‘21 at firstname.lastname@example.org, and Micah Keller ‘21 at email@example.com.