Illustration by Eva Wilhite

I commute to campus every day and parking is a nightmare – especially on East Campus.

There are roughly 2,340 commuters but only 428 spots on East, according to numbers from Executive Vice President David Bixby and the Office of Campus Safety. Let’s just assume that on any given day, about 3/4 of commuters will come to East – that’s 1,875 people. Then let’s assume that of those students, half of them will be trying to park on East in the morning – that leaves more than 900 students fighting over 428 parking spots on a given morning.

OK, that’s just my own amateur estimation, but from what I’ve experienced it probably isn’t too far off. Sure, there’s always the main parking lot on West Campus, but anybody with any APU permit can park there, whereas the East parking lot (Lot A) and the smaller West lots (Lots F and G) are reserved specifically for commuters. But wait a second, I’m a commuter – why is it I rarely get to use those commuter lots?

The student body is constantly growing and with that comes an ever-increasing number of commuter students fighting for the same amount of parking spots every year. This year’s freshman class is the largest ever, with approximately 1,700 students. This is a significant jump, since in the past three years, APU has enrolled around 1,200 first-time freshmen each fall, according to statistics from the Office of Institutional Research and Assessment.

President Jon Wallace said in a “Town Hall” meeting last month that the administration aims to maintain the current freshman class size, which will increase the number of commuters in the near future by several hundred.

And parking is just one headache of expansion: APU cannot keep expanding the student body without also expanding services and facilities like on-campus housing, Hospitality Services and other amenities.

Good luck to the brave man or woman who desires a cup of coffee on East in the 20 minutes before class starts. There is exactly one coffeehouse to serve the hundreds of caffeine-deprived students, staff and faculty on East at any given time.

And we technically have a weight room, but what use is it when there are more than 5,000 undergraduates but exactly four treadmills, not to mention horrible hours?

And what is APU going to do when every single dorm room is tripled? Start asking students to accept four to a room? The only solutions are to decrease the number of accepted students,
expand on-campus housing or stop requiring that freshmen live on campus.

But those are tangents – back to my point. Is APU simply going to tell commuters that they should expect to consistently park in the large West lot and to walk or trolley over to East?

“[For] any place that has grown a lot, like we have, parking is always going to be a challenge and you’re not going to be able to park in the most convenient spot,” Executive Vice President David Bixby told The Clause.

I completely understand that it’s impossible to always have convenience, but maybe commuters should be told as soon as they buy a parking permit that the East lot is “first come first serve” only. If you are rushing to class and arrive just a few minutes early – too bad, you’re late.

A few weeks ago, I arrived five minutes early to class – at 9:40 a.m. for a 9:45 a.m. class – and I knew I was doomed. I spent 10 full minutes circling around the East parking lot with around 15 other frustrated students. I gave up, drove to West and walked back to East. I was 30 minutes late to class.

I now only circle the parking lot once before illegally parking next to Chick-fil-A, then walking across the street for class. Don’t judge me – it’s way closer than the far end of the West parking lot, and I have to get to class.

SGA and the administration are working on parking congestion solutions (see the news article here): proposed solutions include increasing access to and encouraging public or shared transportation with carpool passes, Zip Cars and the Metro Gold Line. They are also proposing decreasing the number of freshmen with cars.

These are all great ideas, but decreasing the number of freshmen with cars will not help relieve congestion in commuter parking lots. Encouraging the use of Zip Cars and the metro are also only solutions for students who live on-campus it provides incentive for them not to bring their cars to APU but does nothing for commuters who need to bring their cars to campus every day.

Carpool passes are a good idea for commuter students, but between my five housemates and I, we all have such different schedules that it’s almost impossible to carpool. Five of us have cars and drive to campus every day.

The best solution, in my opinion, is the long-tossed-around idea to build a parking structure on top of the already existing lots to double the number of parking spots. This idea has been discussed for years, and there are tentative, proposed plans to build five different parking structures, which, if approved, won’t be finished for another 25 years.

In the meantime, APU should be honest with commuters and tell them to expect to park on West at all times and to allot an extra 20 minutes to get from their cars to their classes on East.

And starting next year, APU will no longer accept credit card tuition payments, which means the university will no longer be spending almost $2 million every year on credit card fees. Why not put some of that money toward a parking structure fund?

Granted, parking has improved in the past two weeks, although I’m pretty sure that’s because it’s past the mid-semester mark and exhausted students are just not showing up to class anymore. (I feel you.) But the parking nightmare is still a reality that will start all over again at the beginning of the spring semester.