On a recent September morning, the beginning of the week starts like usual for a particular Mines student; wake up, zig zag through campus bouncing from class to class, come home to study and maybe spend time with friends, go to sleep, repeat. Steve (whose real name has been changed to prevent harassment) is a senior who has mastered this routine after spending three years at Mines. To nearly everyone who knows him, Steve is your typical Mines student. He’s an avid skier and member of back country club. Steve studies computer science and hopes to develop mobile applications for phones after he graduates from Mines, he tells me.
You couldn’t tell based on just looking at him or even talking to him why he’s so hated here, but it’s the job he holds that makes him so disliked. It’s a job he usually tends to leave out when explaining to people what he does. The department that employs him usually shares the animosity from Mines students as well, if not more. That specific employer? The Colorado School of Mines Parking Services.
It’s no secret on campus that the phrase “parking services” is usually followed by certain choice words that are not fit to be published in this article. With a staff of only 10 people, 2 full time and 8 part time, the department has one of the smaller crews around. The work is mostly straightforward and follows the same pattern for each person’s shift. Steve walks me through the routine step by step as if I were a new hire. We clock in, grab a work phone, a mobile printer, and head out to the iconic blue Smart Car. There’s a computer in the Smart Car that handles most of the workload with a camera system mounted to the top that scans license plates as cars pass by. The computer beeps with every license plate scanned, and occasionally the computer will miss a plate and Steve will have to enter it into the computer manually. It takes about 20 cars until the next car causes the computer to sound like it’s about to break. A car in a commuter lot without a pass is registered by the camera. Steve checks the car’s violation history and determines whether to issue a warning or a ticket; warning for first time offenders and tickets for repeating offenders. He prints a ticket, places it on the window of the car, takes pictures of the scene, and continues to drive on as the camera scans the remaining cars.
Parking at Mines has changed dramatically over the last few years as the university begins to implement what it calls the Mines Master Plan in the coming decade. This plan calls for the dramatic transformation of the Mines campus, which includes building new research buildings and dorms, modifying existing campus infrastructure, and removing of nearly all ground parking lots. This is already starting to happen with the future closure of E lot as a new dorm building begins construction between Weaver Towers and the Welcome Center in the coming year or so. Q lot and Elm lot have become general lots as of this year and the freshman lot has been turned into a commuter lot. Freshmen are no longer able to bring cars to campus without a medical waiver and street parking continues to decrease each year. Parking enforcement was nearly pushed to 7:00 PM before rampant student protests pushed the decicion back. The parking situation continues to become strained as Mines continues to accept a record number of student’s year after year, with this year’s freshman class becoming the largest in the school’s history at 1,380 new freshman/transfer students. To accommodate for the increase in students and cars on campus, Mines has begun construction of a parking garage that will finish completion in the Spring of 2020. To many students however, parking seems to be an issue that the school either didn’t think about before planning to expand or doesn’t interest them enough to fully solve the problem.
Between September 11th and September 14th, The Oredigger included a parking survey in the daily blast each day to gauge the opinions of Mines students. Over 500 undergraduate, graduate, and PhD students completed the survey and the results were almost entirely one-sided. 91% of students disapproved (46% somewhat disapprove, 45% strongly disapprove) of the way Mines handles parking. Nearly the same amount of people, 90%, thought that parking had gotten worse (30% somewhat worse, 60% much worse) from the previous year.
“Replacing parking lots with buildings is going to make the situation worse. The parking garages should be built before any parking lots are replaced”, Evan, a senior mechanical engineering student responded.
“Parking passes should not be oversold…. the formula the school uses to estimate parking availability throughout the day is flawed and should be reworked”, Colum, a junior studying civil engineering believes.
Most of the hundreds of students who filled out the survey had similar concerns about the parking situation here at Mines. Responses ranged from being late to class multiple days a week, paying over a hundred dollars a year and not being guaranteed a spot, and not believing that the school is doing enough to fix the problem. A problem that many believe is entirely the result of decisions made by Parking Services.
At the beginning of each semester, Parking Services performs a lot check to determine if there are enough parking spaces for the number of parking passes sold. This is done at peak times of parking, 11:00 AM – 2:00 PM, and is followed up a few times each semester. Dave, a manager at parking services, tells me there are always available parking spots during these times each day. It turns out that K lot (behind the soccer complex) always has open spots during these times which many students don’t realize. The walk from freshman lot to Kafadar and from K lot to Kafadar take the same amount of time. He also tells me that Parking Services does very little of the decision making that has made parking worse off in the eyes of many students. These decisions come from above, more specifically the board of directors makes these changes. Parking Services only makes recommendations to the board after each year. The number of passes issued is also a decision the board of directors makes, as well as deciding what new buildings are to be constructed, parking lots closed, etc. As of right now, there are over 3100 parking spots across all of campus, a number that most students believe is not meeting everyone’s needs. Come Spring 2020, the new parking garage will provide 740 additional spots, a number that will most certainly fill upon completion if Mines continues to accept record-breaking class sizes each year.