Parking Perdition: Addressing Parking Access on FHSU’s Campus

STORY BY TAYLOR SARRATT

PHOTOS BY LEONELL POTGIETER AND KACIE TIMMONS 

There are plenty of daily activities that people stereotype as grueling and painful, most of these are exaggerated to an almost cartoonish extent. However, a poll Fort Hays students partook in on Instagram shows that one task everyone will encounter almost daily could truly be as painful as it seems. That agonizing experience is finding on-campus parking. 

The poll taken by Tiger Media Network asked students if they were able to find parking for classes, with the options of “not too bad” and “parking is a nightmare”. Of the 203 people who responded to the poll, 83% of them claimed that parking is poor. 

After answering the first question, students were asked to elaborate on possible solutions to fix the issue. While there were variants on the specifics, almost all suggested expanding on-campus parking in some way — whether it be the construction of a parking garage, parking ramp, or additional parking lots. Some replies were sarcastic/facetious, including calls for “revolution” due to poor parking. Whether serious or in jest, the voice of students is almost unanimously speaking out against the problem most college campuses are plagued by. 

The biggest issue, however, is not the lack of parking in general it seems. As the poll specifically asked in the context of making it to class. As campus parking maps show very large parking lots that could house most of the students’ vehicles. However, the complaint found there is the distance from these lots to the academic buildings, resulting in 10-20 minute walks to and from these parking lots causing students to alter their schedules as to simply not risk being forced to use these lots. 

When interviewed, several students further elaborated on their grievances:

 “Literally gave up on the idea of transportation; my friends who live in apartments off-campus walk to class. Your best bet is the bus or by foot if you want to be on time,” Marissa Hernandez said.  

“Parking on campus is a joke. Especially for classes around noon. I have to be on campus a good 20 minutes early or I will be late to class,” Erica Fairchild said. 

“Literally no designated spots for Student Health. If there is then there’s not enough. I would really like to walk the bare minimum when I’m sick and coughing up a lung,” Katrina Delgado pointed out, showing that the struggle may not be limited to just academic facilities.

Abby Gergick, a student of almost five years had this to say. 

“Ok so I’ve lived on campus and off-campus over the past 4.5 years, and I can say parking can be hit or miss sometimes. I think it could be better for off-campus students though, especially from what I hear from people who are living off-campus right now. In the time I’ve been here they’ve torn down 2 buildings (one residential one academic) and built 5 more in their place (3 residential 2 academic) while only really adding one extra parking lot all the way over by the stadium,” Gergick said. “I’ve heard suggestions about building a parking garage instead and I think that could be beneficial, it could offer more parking without taking up any more land and also it could be an opportunity for student employment especially during game days.” 

Kimberly Brown, a student here for 3 years had this to say.  

“The only time on-campus parking has ever benefited me (in the 3 years I’ve been parking on-campus) has been with my 8 am classes in Rarick. Otherwise, it sucks majorly, as well as the traffic flow at certain times throughout the day,” Brown said. “Good luck getting to class on time if you don’t leave significantly early and you’re having to park around or after 9 am, because you would have better luck just getting dropped off or walking if you’re within distance.”

University Police Chief, Ed Howell, when asked on his take on the current state of on-campus parking had this to say. 

“I think that there isn’t a parking issue as much as there is a convenient parking issue. Students will show up 10 minutes before their classes, and try to find parking in front of their academic buildings,” Howell said. “We have two parking lots that go grossly underutilized, Gross Memorial Colosseum, and Stadium Parking Lots. We also have a dedicated shuttle service that goes underused.”  

Howell also clarified that “University Police is not the sole judge jury and executioner when it comes to student parking, there is an On-campus Traffic Committee that discusses the state of university parking, this committee is cross representational being composed of students and faculty alike.” 

He went on to say “We try our best to guarantee equal parking that no bias is held towards anyone on campus” even explaining  that he and head of the Traffic Committee, Mike Drees, do not have any form of reserved parking, and have to find parking spots of their own if the spots near their building are taken up. 

Mike Drees also was present at this interview, adding his own commentary on the subject. 

“I understand where the complaints are coming from. If it’s the middle of January, and I have to walk far to my car in the middle of the morning, yeah I’ll dress warmer but I won’t be happy,” Drees said.

He however also went on to say “Fort Hays actually has some of the best parking of any Kansas university, compared to KU or Wichita, we actually have it fairly nice.”

Both Howell and Drees went on to explain that many of the solutions students suggested would not be cost-effective and could actually jeopardize students’ tuition costs. 

“Building a new parking lot when we wouldn’t actually need it would spike up tuition prices for a lot of people,” Howell said. 

“Something like a parking garage would likely cost a monthly fee for students to use, which would be very costly in the long run.” Drees said.

Howell also had this to say to the students:

“Allow yourself a bit more time to get to class, and utilize what you have, like the on campus shuttles and the app you can use to keep track of them.” 

He also provided the following links:

An on campus parking brochure https://www.fhsu.edu/university-police/parking-brochure/ 

Information on the current On-Campus Traffic committee

https://www.fhsu.edu/administrative/adminfin/Standing-Committees—Vice-President-for-Administration—Finance/traffic-2019

Information on the on-campus shuttles https://www.fhsu.edu/reslife/Shuttle-Information/index 

And a map of on campus parking https://www.fhsu.edu/university-police/documents/parkingmap 

Whether one believes parking on campus is a non-issue or a nightmare. It seems that the parking pandemonium students deal with on the day-to-day will remain a hot topic.

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