Commuter students struggle with parking on campus

SMU junior Austin MacDougall lives on Manett Street, which is about three miles away from campus. Getting to class on time shouldn’t be a problem for him, but it often is.

MacDougall has a commuter student parking permit, which allows him to park in several specific lots on campus. However, it’s common for him to have trouble finding a place to park. A little over a week ago, he was circling the floors of the Mustang parking garage near the Dedman Center, searching in vain for a space.

“One of the people in front of me took the last spot,” MacDougall said. “I ended up being around 10 minutes late to class.”

MacDougall’s experience is one that many students say they share. As a commuter, MacDougall has a red parking permit affixed to his windshield, while on-campus residents use yellow permits. The yellow permits allow those students to park in both red and yellow spots. There were 5,177 student permits sold for the fall semester, according to parking officials, but only 4,665 total available spots for students.

It’s easy to see how problems can arise.

“The good part is that students have multiple parking options on campus,” said Mark Rhodes, a director for Parking and ID Card Services. “The bad part is that most central parking areas like the Moody and Binkley parking centers fill up first and then students have to then search in other locations where their permit authorizes them to park for an available space.”

Of the permits sold this fall, 1,859 were yellow and 3,318 of them red. An issue that students with these permits often face is the inability to find parking that is near their destination. Some of the main garages on campus are Binkley, Moody, Airline and Mustang and each one is at least a few minutes walk from Dallas Hall Lawn, where many class buildings are centered.

Some students are forced to find parking along nearby streets.

“I’ll usually drive around the Theta lot then give up and park next to the park,” said junior Stephen Chamberlain, referring to Burleson Park at the corner of University Blvd. and Durham St.

This year there were a total of 6,730 permits sold, including faculty and staff, who have their own designated parking lots. Faculty and staff use blue permits and have access to 1,027 spaces specifically for them. There are also other classifications of permits, including those for guests and handicapped individuals.

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Current SMU Parking Map Photo credit: SMU Parking and ID Card Services

“There are no caps on either employee or student parking permit sales,” Rhodes said.

There is some metered parking available, including along some of the streets through campus, but students say those are a hassle when they are forced to return during the day to feed the meter.

Junior Caleb Holton said the parking on campus is “inconvenient.” Holton, who lives on campus, said the issue with parking is that it is “far away from where most people live.”

Parking may be even harder in the future. In a 2015 article, The Daily Campus reported that SMU’s future plan is to make the campus more pedestrian friendly, even if that means sacrificing some parking spaces.

While many students face issues with the parking on campus now, others say they find parking to be reasonable and well designed. Senior Scott Moody said he has “never had an issue.” Moody typically parks in his fraternity’s lot.

Chamberlain said he could usually find a spot more easily in the morning.

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