University parking is a common conversation among Western Michigan University college students and administration.
Kathy Garneau, a fifth-year student at WMU, created a parking initiative questionnaire in 2019 to help students address their problems with the parking system and motivate change. This year, many of the parking problems remain, and new ones have come to light as a result of COVID-19.
“I have been commuting my entire time at Western, and I started pushing for parking reform through the parking services initiative, because I was really upset with the ways in which they were structuring parking around Arcadia Flats as well as how parking operates on East campus in particular,” Garneau said.
The initiative included a few meetings with parking services, but many of her plans came to a halt due to the pandemic.
“Administration has been hard to talk to with regards to lower concerns on campus,” Garneau said. “Parking feels like it’s not on the top of anybody's list.”
The other COVID-19 concerns such as students safety and vaccinations have taken a majority of the administration’s attention this past year.
A few changes implemented by parking services for the 2020 school year included a reduced semester permit cost from $180 to $150, reduced permit enforcement and the elimination of transfer fees. A one-year waiver has also become available, giving the ability to have one minor parking citation waived by contacting parking services.
“We have observed a drastic decrease in parking citations issued,” said Timothy Unangst, captain of WMU Parking Services. “This could be due to many reasons such as fewer students coming to campus, more choices for available parking and increased compliance.”
The virtual permit system was designed to make parking lot patrols less time consuming, per the WMU parking information page. It also allows students and faculty to get their permits without waiting in long lines during the pandemic.
Participants sign up and pay online, and their license plates become the parking permits. Parking enforcement officers verify vehicles are parked in the correct location by scanning the plates.
Freshman Nick Patteri expressed his concerns with the virtual system and parking tickets on social media.
“I was given multiple tickets that I was confused about,” Patteri said. “I’m not sure if it’s because of COVID this year and they weren’t able to explain everything well, but I feel like I wasn’t told where exactly I was allowed to park when I got the virtual permit.”
If students have issues with permit prices or the ways campus lots are designated, Garneau recommends they reach out to Western administration instead of parking services. Parking services acts as the manager of the lots and does not dictate many of the rules regarding parking.