Nighttime parking a nightmare

UNC-Chapel Hill students living off-campus are fed up with on-campus parking, or should I say lack thereof. On any given weeknight, it is at least a 20-minute ordeal to try to find a parking spot near the library or campus in general. And as it gets colder, the fight for close parking spots can get personal.

It is most frustrating when UNC closes off whole on-campus parking lots at night for sporting events and performing art shows when students really need to utilize those spots.

“It’s irritating when I need to get to campus to study and people who aren’t part of the university have priority over campus spots,” said Elyse Aldana, a junior anthropology major.

Aldana spent 35 minutes looking for a parking spot during exam week, after finding her usual parking lot reserved for an event.

The strict parking enforcement of Chapel Hill is quite another student hassle. With the shortage of legal spots, students improvise, resulting in towing and numerous parking tickets. But even the legal spots are unfair to students. Dozens of spots surrounding campus are metered or reserved until 9 p.m. Nine o’clock at night is not the ideal start for a student with an 8 a.m. exam the next morning. Peter Helvie, a senior biology and Italian double major with a minor in chemistry living off-campus, has accumulated five parking tickets this semester alone. Like many other out-of-state students, Helvie is not only subjected to a hefty tuition bill but also a quarter for every 10 minutes at a metered spot on campus and high costs for unfair parking tickets.

So why not just build more parking lots and decks just for students?

Lauren Yeargin, a junior contemporary European studies and political science double major living in a house off-campus, opposes this idea as a solution. Like many other students, Yeargin values the beauty of Chapel Hill’s campus and would rather not see it turn into brick and concrete.

“Yeah, it’s a hassle, but I’ll sacrifice that time rather than having my campus look like N.C. State’s,” Yeargin said.

While it is unlikely that students will be granted better parking access on game days or see the construction of “student only” parking lots any time soon, the least UNC could do in the meantime is abandon the 9 p.m. rule. I suggest changing all metered and reserved spots to 5 p.m. This would open up a good number of spots to students looking to drive to campus and would lessen the worry of getting a ticket in the process. This is a simple step forward. After all, shouldn’t student academics and access to campus resources be the number one concern for a university, not parking revenue and visitor parking preference?

On-campus parking at UNC-Chapel Hill is not the only parking problem arising. The Town of Chapel Hill is impossible fare as well. To make matters worse, the town-owned Parking Lot 5 at the intersection of West Franklin Street and Church Street will be closing in January to construct a development in its place. The town of Chapel Hill will be losing 103 parking spaces in an already limited parking area of Franklin Street. But that’s another story…
— Cat DiPaci

Cat DiPaci is a journalism major who writes for The Well-Being Magazine, UNC’s health and fitness magazine. A Public Service Scholar, she is in her junior year at UNC.

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  1. Frank

     /  December 13, 2010

    I have the same response to this as I had to the previous student poster to this blog: free bus service?

  2. John Kramer

     /  December 13, 2010

    Does the free bus service run everywhere, frank? And all night? No.

  3. Terri Buckner

     /  December 13, 2010

    I agree that the university should separate out parking for sporting events and parking for studying. I gave up trying to get to Davis Library at night years ago. If I can’t get what I need online, I use the bus system to get there during the day.

    However, despite the hassle, I agree with Yeargin–I don’t want to see any more parking lots on campus.

  4. Linda Convissor

     /  December 13, 2010

    I’m not sure which parking spaces you would like to see changed: “Dozens of spots surrounding campus are metered or reserved until 9 p.m.” Are you talking about campus parking spaces or town spaces?

  5. Anita Badrock

     /  December 14, 2010

    just try getting to and from campus on the bus after 9 pm most nights if you live somewhere like–Weaver Dairy Road, or Homestead Road. Then I would be inclined to consider your opinion on this matter. The young student who lived with us finally just gave up. Off campus students who are trying to study need to be able to get to the library at night, and the bus service, while a real gift to the community, does not adequately meet this need after hours.

  6. Linda Convissor

     /  December 15, 2010

    There are a few relatively new options. Safe Ride Service is provided on Thursday, Friday & Saturday nights from 11:00pm until 2:30am during Full Service. There are only 3 routes so it doesn’t work for everyone, but it does offer more night time options especially if you live in one of the “student” apartment complexes. Here’s the link to one of the routes:

    There’s also the P2P Express which operates seven days a week during Spring and Fall academic semesters, from 7:00 pm until 3:00 a.m. Here’s the route If you have a car, you could park in the deck downtown and catch the P2P to most places on campus.

    Also the D route runs to almost 10:30 – I often find myself behind it when I come home from a night time meeting.

    Obviously, even all these options won’t work for everyone, but they do target some of the need.