In my first month commuting to Pacific Lutheran University, I felt much like The White Rabbit from “Alice in Wonderland.” I’ve never been one to be late, so I would leave 45 minutes before class started, leaving me more than enough time for my 20-minute drive and parking—or so I thought.
If I arrived at PLU after 9:30 a.m., upper-campus parking was a fable rather than a fact. Even in the lower-campus lots, the only parking spots were positioned far away from buildings.
By the time I’d driven down to lower campus and found a parking lot where my decal was permitted, I’d have about five minutes to make the 10-minute walk to my upper-campus classes.
I’m no stranger to finding parking at school, after joining nearly all of my peers in commuting to both high school and community college. I went to a high school of 1,500 students where almost every student older than 16 drove a car and a community college that required abundant parking options for the thousands of students, staff and faculty that entered its campus each day.
PLU, though, seems to be different. When those who commute to campus park, they stay there for the full day. Both staff members and students struggle to find a parking spot if they arrive late or leave in the middle of the day.
I’ll admit it, before I interviewed Campus Safety Director Greg Premo and Parking Supervisor Jennifer Gierke, I believed the parking system was fatally flawed. Commuters needed the extra parking that was only available to faculty, I thought. It just wasn’t fair.
“I purposely park my car all day, and I don’t leave campus,” Gierke said.
Premo and Gierke said staff and commuters have the most parking options. Staff can park in almost all lots and have designated spots, Premo said, because the university’s 700 faculty tend to be on-campus at similar times, while the numbers of students parking on-campus fluctuate.
PLU’s parking committee, which is made up of students and staff, examines parking usage and parking solutions. The committee hasn’t made any drastic changes to parking in years, Premo and Gierke said.
The problem with campus parking isn’t that one group has too much or another too little, but that the parking isn’t always convenient.
“We have parking spaces available,” Premo said, “it’s just not in a location where the majority of students or staff want to use it.”
The lesson I’ve learned: arrive early, and stay late.
Parking Tips from Premo and Gierke (Campus Saftey):
1. “I know cost is a factor, but there’s always room in Tinglestad Gated lot,” Premo said. Premo suggests purchasing a pass for one of the gated lots if a guaranteed parking spot is necessary,
2. Driving to Morken may be worth it, Premo said, because the Morken lot is rarely full.
3. Three types of tickets constitute the majority of tickets given: non-registered vehicles, vehicles parked in incorrect lots and vehicles registered but missing a decal.
4. On-street parking spaces near campus have a two-hour time limit, typically between the hours of 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. or 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Though Campus Safety officers have a commission to enforce the time regulations, students parking in Pierce County-owned parking spaces are more likely to receive a ticket for other infractions, such as blocking a driveway or crosswalk.
5. Students having trouble finding parking on upper-campus should try the Nesvig lot, located halfway between lower- and upper-campus.