The independent news organization of Duke University

Commuter woes

For the commuting student, a 2:20 p.m. class requires more than parking one's butt in a classroom seat. First, you have to figure out how to park your car, which goes something like this?|.

2:00--Leave off-campus residence. 2:06--Arrive at full perimeter lot to find $10 pass useless, as men with orange cones shoo you off to the dreaded overflow lot. 2:09â--Consult campus map left over from freshman year to locate mysterious overflow spaces. Look desperately for non-freshman to ask directions. 2:15â??Find lot is farther away than the Washington Duke. Consider returning to off-campus location where you are confident a space is available directly in front of residence. Rationalize that first week is too early to skip and commence running to Main West. 2:21â??Begin to sweat heavily. 2:27â??Arrive late to class perspiring, panting and pissed.

At Duke, the hardest thing to do with a car is to park it. This year the challenge is magnified by construction and residential changes. Although a lack of space creates inevitable parking problems, many of the worst obstacles could be avoided if parking regulations made sense. The following was decipherable after a thorough study of the parking website and some quality time on the phone with parking.

Off-campus students could be waitlisted for Blue Zone passes, but only after purchasing a $10 perimeter lot pass granting them access to two commuter lots on Duke University Road. After Aug. 15 when Blue Zone sales to West Campus residents ended, waitlisted commuters assumed that they would hear about their status.

Wrong. Even though 545 passes were left over on Aug. 15, those waitlisted were not informed of permit availability until Aug. 30. Once those waitlisted were offered passes, administrators congratulated themselves on accommodating all students wanting a Blue Zone permit. However, those accommodated were just the 98 commuters who were desperate enough to pay $10 for waitlist status. Students not on the original waitlist still cannot purchase a Blue Zone permit, even though more than 440 passes will remain after waitlist sales.

Despite poorly handling permit allocation, the administration has shown a willingness to work with students by authorizing non-West residents to use the gated Edens lots on the weekends. However, students traditionally have not been twisting the administration's arm for this privilege. Instead, they have just been breaking the mechanical ones guarding the gates. Not only should these lots be open on weekends, but also during the week. After 5 p.m., they should be available for students going to the gym, the library or meetings. And to eliminate the continual $60 charge of replacing the gate arms, I suggest raising them.

It's impossible to talk about parking without mentioning parking security. Here's the bottom line on the guard tower--it's geographically challenged. A university with buildings that look like castles should know that towers should be built at hill-tops, not at their bottoms. Rather than guarding you on your trek from the woods to civilization, the tower congratulates you for making it back to campus. That is, if there's actually someone in it. As for the security van, I know it's no SAFE Rides substitute. But officers may strengthen their mission of providing safety if they offer rides to girls walking home alone at night instead of speeding past them.

One good idea has come out of the new parking regulations: a cheaper option for commuters. Why should short-term parkers have to pay the same price as those residential students whose permanent parking spot is on West? The trick is that the commuting lot must have enough space for the commuting students.

If the problem is truly that there is not enough space for everyone to park, a sensible solution would be to reduce the number of cars on campus by providing a bus for off-campus residents. This is an option students want and may even be willing to pay for. (The Belmont and Campus Walk were initially going to be incorporated into a bus route originating from a Park-and-Ride lot on Hillsborough Road. When plans for this lot were scratched, so were plans for the buses.)

In the meantime, if you are lucky enough to be purchasing the coveted Blue Zone pass or you need to appeal one of your many tickets, the parking website requests that you take the bus, because parking at parking, just like everywhere else, is limited.

Julie Smith is a Trinity senior. Her column appears every third Wednesday.


Share and discuss “Commuter woes” on social media.