Parking at MU improves, but still has a long way to go

Despite investments of hundreds of thousands of dollars, MU parking still falls short of expectations for many students.
Every space in the designated student parking area is packed to nearly maximum capacity with few available spots, with many students struggling to find a place to park. Photo by Photographer Luke Hoffman

CORRECTION: A previous version stated the fall 2019 enrollment increase was the first of its kind in four years. The article has been updated to show that the increase is the largest of its kind in four years rather than the first. The Maneater regrets this error.

Parking for students at MU has always been a source of deep frustration. And yet, after years of loud complaints, many students have found that not enough has been done by the university to alleviate the painful, on-campus parking problems.

In an attempt to remedy students’ grievances, MU officials have tried to make changes to the parking process. Most notably streamlining registration so the website does not crash and keep people from registering on time. The permit purchasing dates have also been spread out by seniority, with graduate students having the opportunity to register for spots as early as Aug. 5 and freshmen able to purchase their spots on Aug. 9.

Despite these changes, the parking process seems to have remained the same. Students are still complaining about full parking structures, overflowing parking lots with too many vehicles and long distances locations from where students reside and go to class.

Amplifying the problem, enrollment at MU has increased each year since 2015. In May 2019, 5,460 students had paid enrollment fees, up 15% from the same time a year ago, the largest increase of its kind in four years. This increase in enrollment is synonymous with an increase in students bringing cars with them to school.

“We have seen an increase in the number of freshmen bringing cars to campus,” Liz McCune, associate director of MU News Bureau, said in a statement via email. “Those students who live on campus, and graduate and professional students receive permits before other students. We have accommodated all Residential Life requests.”

Parking is big business for MU, and parking citations lead to big revenue for the school. The Missourian reported that between 2017 and 2018, the university issued more than 61,000 citations with an average penalty of between $10 and $25.

Despite attempts to help make parking registration simpler, students like freshman Brendan Spicer were still frustrated.

“The process is extremely unintuitive and it’s not user-friendly,” Spicer said. “Personally, registering my car was not a great experience. It wasn’t necessarily difficult, but I had no idea what to do in terms of registration.”

Spicer echoed other students’ challenges in the registration process, bogged down by numerous “instruction” emails that actually created more questions than they answered.

“I had three or four emails sent to me,” he said. “I would follow the steps they provided me, but I would have to keep going back and having to re-register my car because for some reason it wouldn’t save, even though it was supposed to, which was frustrating.”

Registration isn’t the only parking issue, as freshman Lucy Dozier found out on her first day on campus.

“We went out [late] to Walmart to get groceries, and when we came back there were absolutely no spots, and we spent half an hour trying to find one, eventually having to park in a non-designated spot,” Dozier said.

After parking in this spot for the night, she went back to her room hoping for the best, but expecting the worst.

“I got a spot late at night, but when I showed up the next day, I saw that my car had a ticket because apparently I had parked in the staff lot,” she said.

This is an issue a number of students face and Liz McCune and other school officials are aware of it.

“Lot AV14A has been at 95-98% capacity,” McCune said in an email. “We are in the process of moving some students out of AV14 to other locations. If permit holders cannot find a place to park in AC14A, permit holders can park in AV14B.”

McCune believes that as the semester rolls on, data collection will be key to help make the parking experience for MU students a pleasant one.

“The first few weeks of classes Parking & Transportation staff monitor the number of cars in each lot at any given time and the number of violators who are parking in the wrong lot or do not have a valid permit,” she said. “The number of spaces in a lot does not indicate the number of permits sold because day commuters come and go. It is hard to project how many commuters will be using larger lots, so collecting data is essential.”

Edited by Laura Evans | levans@themaneater.com

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