Parking in Bloom – The Curse of the Purple Decal

Complaints about sufficient parking, or a lack of it, and subsequent fines for violations are heard almost anywhere with high numbers of cars and people. For students at Bloomsburg, and probably other colleges, merely mentioning the issue of parking can produce an almost instantaneous unification with a general consensus that spaces are limited, ticketing enforcement is merciless and the Blue Lot is just really far away.
Each week approximately 1700 students commute to BU from surrounding areas considered to be outside the town of Bloomsburg by the University. Parking spaces and the respective lots, though ample, are hit-or-miss. Lower or upper campus is the difference between a mild inconvenience and arriving late to class after barely catching an ill-timed shuttle bus, according to commuter students.
As spaces fill up, parking can be a competition, a battle even. While researching this story, BUNow staff witnessed on several occasions two cars simultaneously driving towards the same spot. After a honk, to the victor went the space. And the other car drove off or parked in a restricted area—a fire lane, corner, or unmarked space— consciously risking $15 for a parking violation.
Commuters with more than 60 credits are issued black decals and park mostly behind the Library and in some of the spaces north of the Rec Center. They also park in portions of the Lightstreet (in front of the hospital) and tri-level lots. Parking for those with black decals is at most a mild inconvenience since spaces are usually plentiful in the Library lot, said Shana, a Senior interviewed with other commuter students in the Student Services Center lounge.
It is commuters with less than 60 credits, purple decals, who face the most frustration finding spots. Sarah, interviewed and filmed by BUNow with Shana, is a freshman who usually parks in the First Street lot (between the Hospital and Honeysuckle Apartments) but has to spend at least 20 minutes waiting for a spot each morning. (Both Shana and Sarah asked that their last names not be used.)
University Police maintain that spaces are available. On Sept. 9 BUPD, in an effort to regularly assess the parking situation, recorded the number of available spaces in certain lots.
At 10:46 a.m. the Lightstreet lot, which has 165 spaces, had no empty spots; the First Street lot, which has 190 spaces, had eight empty spots; and the Redman Stadium lot, which has roughly 200 spaces, had 50 available spaces.
Robert Klinger, University Police Director, admitted that parking is tight, at least for purple decals, and that the lots are either full or close to it—with the exception of upper campus.
Upper campus brings up the issue of convenience. Most commuters interviewed for this story agreed that the shuttle buses never run on schedule. Being forced to park on upper campus, said one student, is like a bad sign: the day is almost guaranteed to be filled with frustration and misfortune.
For many commuters, making it to class on time means a 30-minute drive plus time spent parking and possibly riding a shuttle bus. And so, since time is no doubt valuable, commuters might risk a $15 violation and park in a restricted area.
Many students, not just commuters, will argue that the University’s ticketing officers are nothing less than fascist. Several Freshman commuters have already paid the University over $50 in fines for what the BUPD have said were innocent—though nonetheless ticketable—mistakes. But other violations are not innocent—i.e. students who live in town driving to campus and parking illegally in spaces reserved for commuters, thereby forcing commuters to look elsewhere for parking or risk a ticket. Either way commuters face a dilemma and the BUPD have someone to ticket.
Klinger was neither offended nor surprised to hear the University’s ticketing officers described as merciless. He described with pride how— after becoming Director nine years ago— he turned what was a lenient (he also used the word “chaotic”) parking and ticketing policy into a system that earns nearly $160,000 a year and pays for equipment and personnel salaries.
Commuter students noted that parking changes—because of an event, construction, etc.—are often not posted, thus resulting in the driver unknowingly parking illegally.
Many purple decal commuters who parked in the lot north of the Rec center were ticketed during the first two weeks this semester. That lot changed from being exclusively black decal last semester to now including purple. The parking guide of this semester shows this change but the signs in the lot had not yet been changed to include purple decals. Parking officers, dedicated to enforcing the posted guidelines, ticketed as usual.
Klinger said he would rescind all of these tickets. But many students have already paid and would have to file an appeal, which is a lengthy and time consuming process, just like commuting to campus.

BU Parking from Mike Smith on Vimeo.

(city-data.com photo)

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