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Saint Mary’s parking lots overcrowded despite increase in parking pass prices

| Wednesday, September 22, 2021

There has been a recurring scene at Saint Mary’s the past couple of weeks: cars parked on grass areas around campus. This scene has been the topic of many conversations between Saint Mary’s students. Many have complained about the rising price of a parking pass— from $100 to $185 — due to limited parking spaces.

Junior Kayla Ambrose said she does not understand the conflicting events.

“I would understand the price increase if there were actual places to park in the parking lot, but since there’s not in any of the parking lots, I think it’s a bit ridiculous,” she said.

According to Phil Bambeneck, director of the Saint Mary’s campus safety department, which oversees all campus parking guidelines, the department looks at other institutions’ practices to determine his own department’s decisions.

“We regularly review our cost of parking relative to other peer organizations, and, having not raised fees in the last 7 or 8 years, brought them in line with comparative organizations. We provide a number of benefits over and above many of our peers and those fees help with improved lighting, safety features, escort services, motor vehicle lockouts, jump starts and other services,” Bambeneck said.

The lack of parking has also been an issue for non-resident students, such as Anjelica Zitto, a sophomore who lives off-campus and expressed frustration over the uncertainty of where to park every day.

“I’m a commuter so they kinda put us on the outskirts of campus and the parking spots aren’t clearly marked, so every day you’re questioning whether you’re going to get a ticket,” Zitto said.

Bambeneck said his department worked over the summer to address parking issues. As a response, Saint Mary’s created additional parking spaces for commuting students that were closer to the center of campus. Despite their efforts, Zitto said she feels this issue has not been solved. Bambenek also noted that parking is usually congested during the first couple of weeks as students adjust to parking on campus.

Another change that was made to the parking guidelines according to Bambenek was that all students may utilize any spaces in all parking lots (except those specifically marked or identified for special permit, handicapped, or reserved spaces) every day from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m.

“This should allow students parking opportunities in the lots closest to their residence halls during the hours of darkness,“ he said.

However, all resident student vehicles must be moved from these spaces by 8 a.m. every morning.

Another complaint with students is that they have received tickets or warnings for parking on the “wrong grass” when they were previously told to park anywhere on the grass.

Bambenek said parking on the grass was a “transitional step“ to deal with current construction and overflow.

“We have tried to concentrate grass parking in a single area, and students parking on the ‘wrong grass’ are getting warnings due to the location creating unsafe situations for drivers entering or exiting the parking lots,” he said.

Grace Beauchamp is a dual-student at Saint Mary’s and Notre Dame, and she drives back and forth between the two campuses daily. She said she disagrees with the raise in the price of parking.

“We have to pay more to park in the grass, and sometimes I have to drive around the parking lots looking for a spot for 30 min and it makes me late to class because I can’t afford to pay the $50 ticket from Saint Mary’s. I think it’s ridiculous that their parking situation is going to interfere with my education here at Saint Mary’s,“ Beauchamp said.

Beauchamp also noted she is unsure how the College will handle the issue when winter comes.

“We can’t park in the grass in the winter seasons some people can barely park in the grass now, do they expect us to have 4-wheel drive or all-wheel drive to drive up those hills to park? That’s ridiculous,” Beauchamp said.

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