OSU faces parking challenges

Tia Collins

Everyday students at Oregon State University must figure out how to commute to their classes, grocery stores, jobs, extracurricular activities, and then back home and do the commute all over again. Unfortunately, not all modes of transportation in the Oregon State community are equal in efficiency, availability, and cost. One option that is particularly popular is the car; however, this may not be the best form of transportation on the OSU campus because parking can be difficult.   

Because OSU has so many students interested in driving to school, parking spaces are crucial.

“There are about 7,000 spaces at OSU with different categories. Commuter, residence hall spaces, and reserved spaces are a part of this number. There are closer to 5,800 commuter spaces available to employees and students,” said Meredith Williams, director of Transportation Services. “There are 1,000 resident parking spaces. If you live on and want to park on campus you have to park in these zones.”  

To be able to park in these campus spaces without getting a ticket, car owners must purchase a parking permit. Parking permits are required between 7 a.m and 5 p.m, Monday through Friday, year-round. After 5 p.m. students can park in commuter parking lots without a parking permit, unless it is a specially designated parking space or there is a meter.

“We do sell more permits than spaces available. The number of permits is equal to the number of residents for residential permits, the commuter permits we oversell the lots from 10 percent to 50 percent over, it just depends on the size of the lot and parking patterns.” Williams said.

Williams also sheds light on how many permits they decide to sell.

“We go out every other week to count vacant spaces and check uses of the lots to determine if we can sell more lots. We do not want to see lots go over 90 percent occupancy. We try to be thoughtful about peak times, so we check Tuesdays, Wednesdays, or Thursdays, 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.,” Williams said. Not separated from commuter or residence, about 7,400 permits (970 of this number are residential permits) have been sold according to Williams.  

Despite the easy access to parking policy information, many students find that parking at OSU is still particularly difficult.

“It is a pain and it is expensive. You can never find a spot and the campus really isn’t built for cars,” said Eric Wren  a student majoring in construction engineering and management.

The biggest expense is the depreciation expense, which allows the Transportation Services to save money for future replacement of the assets. Other expenses include maintenance of the parking lots, the parking garage, funding for transportation options program, beaver bus and personnel.

Office staff manage permit and citation processing and help with special events and the field staff who do maintenance and parking patrol. The parking patrol is in charge of making sure that people who are parked have the right permit, but also give people a jump start, call if lights are on, and give directions.

“The Beaver bus service is completely funded by parking permit revenue. This includes fuel, personnel, washing the cars, and other things,” Williams said. “We are still paying on loan to fund a parking garage.”

Not all parking permits are the same price. For instance, campus parking permits that allow parking on the North side of campus tend to have higher rates (A1 and A2).

“A2 and C continue to be the most popular. A2 has biggest waiting list. Sells out the fastest. C-zone is popular because of low price. Sold at less then what we need to maintain lots. Incentive to park in one a little further.” Williams said.

Tanya Andersson, the Parking Specialist at Oregon State University, said that students should not be afraid to mix modes of transportation.

“Buy a C-zone permit, park your car in it and then ride a bike instead of shuttle,” Andersson said.   

OSU also offers a carpool system which allows students to go green. With the carpool system, many students can get an infrequent driver discount while also reducing the overall number of cars on the OSU campus. This would ultimately make OSU a cleaner campus by reducing greenhouse gas emissions.  

Still, another issue about parking at OSU is the congestion. For example, lately, Reser Stadium has been really impacted due to construction. With this in mind, Andersson reveals that, “There is a C zone parking lot behind the stadium that is being under used. It is off of Western behind the softball stadium”. She also adds that, “the shuttle stops right next to it”.

Events and games tend to cause crowds and reduce the total available parking spots. Andersson recommends picking different forms of transportation such as the city bus, and shuttles.

“If there was an event large enough we would open up permits for other zones. Also trying to do a better job of communicating when there will be an event,” Williams said.

To help deal with the problems of congestion, OSU has recently opened up some new lots.

Two new lots were added to the south and west sides of campus. The new East LaSells Stewart Center Lot along Western Boulevard is a B2 lot and the new Energy Center South Lot along 35th Street is a CR lot. Together, they bring a total of 118 new parking spaces.

“We have another lot planned but it will not be constructed until the summer of 2017. It will probably be a B-zone,” Williams said.  

Others options for transportation are available as well to combat any parking difficulties.

The Beaver Bus is also a good option for students on campus. The Beaver Bus shuttle route can be found on the OSU transportation website and only operates one route for this winter term. Its hours of operation are from 7 a.m. to 7p.m.

“Best place to get city bus stuff is on their online system. Tells you when bus is going to get there,” Tanya Andersson said. “The city bus is free so anyone can ride it for free. Also, the campus shuttle helps with getting around and Corvallis is so easy to bike”. 

Campus is too small to be car friendly according to Angelo Reyes, a psychology major.

“(There is) not a single reason to drive a car on campus if you are trying to get to class. If you are going to class biking is better 95 percent of the time.” Reyes said.  

“You should almost always be able to find a space. If they are having trouble, should contact the parking office where the staff can help them understand all the options available to them with their permit” Williams said.

“95 percent of the time there should be a space in the zone so be sure to know where the lots are,” Williams said.