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Willamette Needs to Re-evaluate the Current Parking Availability

Priya Thoren

Staff Writer

Photo by Anushka Srivastav

Willamette students have enough to deal with during the school year, let alone trying to find a place to park in the morning. Unfortunately, issues with campus parking are not ensuring a peaceful environment for some individuals. Willamette appears to offer various parking options, presenting students with choices to fit their best needs. However, it seems that these assurances of adequate parking spaces are illusory.

An influx of freshmen entered the university’s community Fall of 2022, and if this trend continues, the already meagre parking selections are only going to get more cramped as the school continues to admit larger freshmen classes.

Lali Trejo (‘26) currently has a car on campus. She lives in the dorms and must find a way for her car to reside in one of the parking lots. “I [have had issues with finding parking] like a thousand times. I park in the Matthews parking lot and usually all the seniors take [the spots] because of their classes,” she said.

One sentiment that was shared between multiple interviewees was the unsafe conditions brought upon them by the lack of proper parking space. This brings up a whole other issue; not only are students suffering from inconveniences, they are also not feeling safe and comfortable walking to their cars parked on campus.

“I park at Sparks, meaning I have to walk in the dark at night back there, which is super spooky because the lights suck around there,” Trejo elaborated. Her avoidance of the Sparks parking lot has even landed her with a ticket. With no open spots, Trejo parked in a Matthews reserved spot with only a standard parking pass and was later fined.

Gavin Klipfel (‘26) echoed Trejo’s concerns: “When I haven't found spots in Matthews, I usually go to the larger Spark’s parking lot. In general, I know that I am pretty privileged to have a car on campus… However, I think of people who aren’t big or tall and don’t seem physically strong walking alone at night. It can be really harmful in the long term for them because it exposes them to, I hate to say it, but being assaulted. It can lengthen the opportunity,” he said.

Reserved parking spots on campus do not seem to be working in the way that the university intended for them to be. There are never cars in the reserved spots, according to Klipfel. “I’ll leave my car there overnight, at like 10 pm… I’ll go to sleep and come back out at 8 am to get it and there’s already a ticket. And they’re 25 bucks each. This is not fun—to have to pay,” he said. Klipfel has also had to pay for parking along Winter Street when there was no parking to be found on campus.

The university could solve this problem by putting up more parking spots or, suggested by Klipfel, reevaluate the parking permit situation altogether. “Maybe people who have those spots reserved aren’t using them, and so that would at least free up some of the spaces that are already existing,” he explained.

Certain times of day provide students with more luck with finding parking on campus. “I would say after 7, if you’re not parked in Matthews, game over,” Trejo said. Klipfel added that this pattern is particularly strong on weekdays, due to so much stress already being in the air. They also agreed that afternoons keep the lots pretty packed. Edie Mueller (‘23) has a forty-five minute commute to campus. She offered her input regarding timing and parking availability as well: “I’ve had pretty early classes [this semester and last semester], and what I’ve noticed is that if I get here before 11, which I am because I have classes early, there’s always parking for me. But when I get here later in the day, like if I had classes that were cancelled or something, then I might have a harder time,” she said.

Parking locations have unanswered confusion surrounding them as well. Mueller noted that when she lived in Kaneko, the parking system was confusing. “People were super unclear if you had to purchase a Kaneko pass or if a standard one would allow you to park in Kaneko as well as Sparks,” she explained. An email sent by housing on Thursday, Feb 9 alerted Kaneko residents that a switch back to pre-COVID policies of having Kaneko be a reserved parking space will be happening shortly. The email wrote: “[n]otice of the change back to "Reserved" was posted on the entry gate starting in November. Permanent signage was posted in January and warning citations were then issued intermittently in an effort to increase student awareness. Starting on February 1st, official citations began being issued. Please contact the Service Center to inquire about a Reserved Kaneko permit. Standard Parking permits are no longer valid in the Kaneko lot.”

Like Klipfel, Mueller has also fallen victim to having to pay for parking due to minimal space in the campus lots. “I did park on the street a couple semesters ago. Am I going to circle around for a spot in Sparks one more time, or am I going to park on the street and not pay? It’s also because I had classes in the art building, and there’s not really parking that’s close over there…so I would pull up on the street,” she said.

None of the interviewees have yet been active with their concerns about student parking on Willamette’s campus.

Klipfel expressed his doubt of being taken seriously by campus safety. “I think they recognize that it’s kind of, at least in my case, it’s kind of a privileged thing. You know, I don’t really suffer from feeling unsafe…so I’ve never thought of voicing it, just because it’s something that doesn’t really affect me too much. However, after thinking about it and recognizing that people literally can have increased chances of being assaulted, I definitely think I am more willing to voice my concerns to the school,” he said.

Mueller did attempt to get her questions about Kaneko cleared up. She never got a straight answer, however, and felt that nobody was on the same page about what students need to do in regards to parking, she said.

Unfortunately, solutions to these issues do not seem to be right around the corner. Ideas such as adopting a nearby parking lot or finding another space to add spots have been brought up, and there are hopes that campus safety will take into consideration the effect the abysmal parking situation is having on the safety of students.

Note that when asked for an interview, Campus Safety Student Parking Enforcement responded with an error message and no response.

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