Parking problems worsen with permit oversell

The construction of parking structure three in Creason lot will be opened for students to park this fall Oct. 26, 2017.

Emma Collins


Nashville sophomore Reilly Cordell said she once spent 25 minutes looking for an on-campus parking spot. Louisville junior Katie Sawyer said she has had to drive around campus multiple times just to find an empty parking space. Jeffersonville, Indiana, junior Christy Lester said she has parked her car at a friend’s apartment when she couldn’t find a place to park on campus.

“Honestly, I think the last time I couldn’t find a parking spot I just left and did something else,” Lester said.

Cordell, Sawyer and Lester are just three of over 9,700 parking permit holders vying for one of just over 7,000 parking spots on campus.

Parking on campus has been an ongoing battle, with students, faculty and staff competing for parking spots on campus, but with over 1,500 more parking permits than spaces, finding an empty space can be a challenge.

The struggle for parking spots began this semester when students with Housing 6 permits complained there were not enough parking spaces. During the first few weeks of the semester, some students complained they could not find an available spot in the Adams Street Lot or at the Kentucky Street Apartments.

Dennis Cain, a transportation analyst with Parking and Transportation Services, said H6 parking had been full during the first two weeks of the semester due to an administrative error. He said PTS set the target sales for H6 permits too high, resulting in too many H6 permit holders.

The problem, he said, was recently fixed by relocating some students to other parking lots. Despite changing some permits, there are still 37 more H6 permits than parking spots.

Out of all the parking lots on WKU’s Main and South Campuses, less than five have more parking spaces than parking permits.

Cain said PTS intentionally oversells parking permits because there are consistently empty spaces in some of the lots.

“We don’t limit it to just one permit per space because we know, if we have a big lot like Pearce Ford Lot that has like 450 spaces in it … there’s some kids that are always gone; either they’ve gone home or they’re hanging out off campus with somebody else,” Cain said.

Cain said he inspects the campus parking lots every day Monday through Thursday to count the number of empty parking spots. He said if he sees a parking lot consistently has open spaces, then PTS will sell more permits.

Both Lester and Sawyer said there have been times when they have tried to park in their designated zones, but they have been unable to find empty parking spaces.

“I feel like it’s impossible,” Lester said describing her experience of looking for parking.

Cain said all students who have on-campus housing permits should be able to find a parking spot. He said commuters, faculty and staff may have a more difficult time finding parking spots, although all commuters should be able to park.

However, he said faculty and staff who purchase FS3 or non-premium permits are not guaranteed to be able to find an available parking space on campus.

The number of permits sold for the on-campus commuter lots and the non-premium faculty and staff lots greatly exceeds the number of available spaces. There are at least 500 more parking permits than parking spots for faculty and staff with FS3 permits and over 1,900 more C1 permits than parking spaces.

Cain said PTS works to ensure all C1 permit holders are able to find an available space even though there are more permits than spaces. He said PTS has collected over a decade’s worth of data to ensure that overselling C1 parking permits will not prevent commuter students from being able to park.

Cain said there used to be no limits on the number of commuter passes sold, and commuter students often arrived on campus and were unable to park. He said PTS began limiting the number of permits, but they limited them too much, and the commuter parking lots consistently had empty spaces.

Cain said PTS started collecting data to figure out the number of commuter permits that could be sold while ensuring all commuter students could park on campus. Four times a day, someone would go to the lots and record what car was in each parking spot.

Cain said the results showed a commuter parking space had an average of 2.4 cars in it everyday. He said the data helped PTS determine how many commuter passes to sell.

Cain said the main reason students complain about not being able to find a parking spot is because they only go to the parking lots where they want to park. He said many commuters want to park in the Chestnut Street North lot or in Parking Structure 2. He said those lots fill up quickly, but there are other parking lots authorized for commuters to use. Most commuters, he said, don’t want to park in those lots because they are farther away from classes.

“It’s not a matter of we don’t have the parking,” Cain said. “It’s a matter of they need to park where there’s room.”

Cain said students who cannot find a parking spot can call the PTS office. He said the office has a dispatcher who can tell students where there are empty spots.

Louisville freshman Jalen Matthews said he is unhappy with where he must park. He said he can only park in the Creason Lot, and he always has to carry his things a long distance when he goes home or returns to school. He said he does not think there should be designated parking zones because then people can only park in one location.

“I wish I could drive up to my classes,” Matthews said.

Cain said the biggest problem with on-campus parking is parking for faculty and staff in the FS3 zones. He said the number of student permits and premium faculty and staff permits can be limited, but PTS cannot deny any faculty or staff a parking permit in the FS3 zones.

Cain said faculty and staff non-premium parking became a problem when PTS decided the housing parking lots would be designated for students only. He said that eliminated many spaces where faculty and staff had parked in the past. The employees then had to compete for even less spaces.

“I mean they’re just fighting all over each other,” Cain said. “Since we’ve taken housing [lots] away … that’s really put a crunch on them.”

Cain said he expects the FS3 parking problem to continue to worsen. He said construction on the top of the hill will begin soon, and then faculty and staff will lose at least 20 parking spaces.

Cain said he hopes the completion of the new Parking Structure 3 in Creason Lot will solve some of the parking problems. Once open, PS3 will add 679 parking spots to campus.

Chief Facilities Officer Bryan Russell said at first it looked like the seven-story structure would be finished in late September; however, the structure is now scheduled to be completed by Oct. 26. He said the structure cost $10 million or $14,728 per parking space.

The cost for the construction fell on students with a $30 semester fee added to their tuition bills.

Ann Mead, senior vice president for finance and administration, said the $30 semester fee will exist for 20 years, when the structure is expected to be fully paid off.

Meghan Nevels, a freshman from Harrisburg, said she supported the new parking structure. Nevels said the number of students on campus means there needs to be more parking.

“The college classes are getting bigger,” Nevels said. “We need more places to park.”

Cain said PS3 will provide more spots when it opens in October as an Overflow Zone, meaning all students, faculty and staff with on-campus parking permits will be able to park there.

Cain said PTS will also increase the number of H9 permits once PS3 opens, so all students with housing parking permits can park on the main campus. He said right now 390 students who park on South Campus are waiting to upgrade to on-campus H9 permits so they can begin parking on the main campus.

Cain said although students may be unhappy with on-campus parking, the situation has changed since he started working at WKU 12 years ago.

“When we first started out this department years ago, it was the wild, wild west,” Cain said. “It was just a nightmare, and people and students would get tickets but there was no mechanism to hold them responsible.”

Cain said housing and commuter permits were not limited, and people were often caught parking illegally.

“Honestly, I think the last time I couldn’t find a parking spot I just left and did something else.” – Jefferson, Indiana, junior Christy Lester

Cain said since then, PTS has created a more effective way to handle people who park illegally. He said making different zones that correspond to different permits has helped reduce the number of people who park illegally because people now know where they can park.

“That’s what our goal is,” Cain said. “If people have a spot; they know where the spot is, then they’re less likely to get a ticket.”

Cain said PTS always works to improve parking on campus. He said the parking permit waitlist is always being updated, and people who are on the waitlists are constantly being moved around to give them their preferred parking permit.

“Our goal is to constantly improve the parking experience for all faculty, staff and students on campus, but our main priority right now is taking care of the students first,” Cain said. “They have first priority.”

Reporter Emma Collins can be reached at 270-745-6011 and [email protected].