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Parking Wars: A game no one wins

For Halloween last year, Senior Claire Coward’s costume featured khakis, a purple pinstriped polo, a bucket hat, and to bring the piece together: a plethora of orange citations she had pulled from the hood of her car.  
“I had never been anything scary before,” said Coward, “For me, ‘scary’ meant the terror I felt when I saw a [Clemson] parking services employee doing rounds.”
Coward is one of many Clemson commuters currently frustrated with the Clemson Parking and Transportation Services. Junior Samantha Flynn lives in an apartment complex behind the Sonic Drive-In. Flynn said she just walks to campus now because the Catbus service is “ridiculous” and she refuses to drive because there “isn’t parking anywhere.”
“I like to take the bus because it’s better for the environment and drops me off near my class,” said Flynn, “[but] by the time the bus gets to the stop by Sonic it’s full. There’s usually at least 30 people waiting there that then have to walk…and then most of us are late for class.”
Other members of the Clemson community have voiced their opinion on social media platforms like Google reviews, protesting the, “apathetic employees,” the “lack of parking availability,” and the “excessive fines.”
One Google Review said “parking services is the worst part about Clemson.”
Dan Hofmann, Director of Parking and Transportation Services, is familiar with the hostile sentiment Clemson parkers feel towards his department.
“They hate us,” said Hofmann, “to them, we’re the bad guys.”
Some of the angriest complaints that the department receives concern parking availability. Hoffmann said for the past few weeks, many students have resorted to parking on the grass in order to get to class on time.  
“We have a limited parking supply…[but] we do have enough parking. It’s just not where students want it. Students want to be closer. And we just can’t do anything about that right now,” said Hofmann.
The Clemson Parking and Transportation website said that convenient parking “stems from [student] expectations” that they will be able to park “right at the door of their destination.” The website further argued that Clemson parking resembled an “urban” environment, where destinations are a ten minute walk or a bus ride away. 
Students have also protested the amount of parking permits sold, saying that amount of permits sold far outweighs the amount of spaces. According to data collected by Clemson Parking and Transportation Services, in 2014, the space to permit ratio for residents was 3,303 spaces to 3,333 resident permits. For commuters it was 5,051 spaces to 8,733 commuter permits. This year, the space to permit ratio for residents is 3,316 spaces to 3,579 resident permits. For commuters, the ratio is 5,110 spaces to 9,508 commuter permits according to the same data. 
“We do not have a 1 student permit per space ratio as all students are not here at the same time,” said Hofmann, “We have been able to manage at a ratio of 1.81-1.93 [for commuters] and still have available spaces on campus.”
Hofmann said 9:30 to noon is their “crunch” time—when the most students are trying to get to campus, and when they see the most students parking on the grass. 
“So, at 9:30-12:00 what does it look like? Do we need more parking supply? Last few years, we weren’t full up to 100%. This year,” said Hofmann, “we are getting there.” 
Senior Associate Director of Operations for Parking and Transportation to Kat Moreland they are “getting there” this year because more students try their luck and attempt to park without permits at the beginning of the semester. 
“The very first few weeks of school are always chaotic, so it appears that we don’t have enough parking,” said Moreland, “but one of the problems we have in those first few weeks is that people keep coming onto campus without permits.”
The Parking and Transportation department data shows that there were 1,168 tickets distributed in the past two months to students without a valid permit. The number for this offense has slowly been declining as the weeks progress according to the Parking and Transportation department. 
“If you look in a parking lot and you see sixty kids with no permits, who’s the bad guy? I don’t think it’s us,” said Hofmann, “I think it’s the people that are—literally—stealing spaces from those paying for them. Through enforcement, we try to educate our students to do the right thing.”
Hofmann said that he does know that space is tight and students are frustrated. His department has instigated several new measures to increase transportation efficiency over the past two years. 
One of these measures includes the my.clemson app, which allows students to gauge what parking lots are full and where the buses are.
The department also built R-06 this past summer, a parking lot right on the outskirts of campus. A shuttle runs to and from the parking lot and drops students in the middle of East library Circle. According to the Parking and Transportation website, the shuttle runs by R-06 every 15 minutes. 
Future projects will possibly include building more surface lots and increasing bus inventory. Hofmann said that there is speculation over a parking deck, but the deck is almost four times the amount it would cost to build a surface lot. In the mean time, the department will rely on data to help them make their decisions about the future.
“One of the great things about [Parking and Transportation] services is that we rely on numbers and statistics to make decisions. Not anecdotes,” said Moreland.
In the mean time if students are frustrated, Hofmann recommends that they search for which options are available to them—options like the my.clemson app and the new R-06 parking lot. Or, instead, voice their frustration to the Parking and Transportation Services directly.
“I hear kids say they hate us and then I invite them in and explain how everything works. They walk out with a completely different perspective,” said Hofmann, “They don’t realize all the things we do.”
Flynn said she has tried both the R-06 parking lot and the my.clemson app. 
For her, R-06 shuttle has been unreliable and the app did not help her “all that much.”
To sum up her experience with Clemson parking and transportation services in one word?

Flynn said: “unreal.”
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