An In-Depth Look at Parking
by Olivia Lopatofsky | published Oct. 9th, 2018
Whether or not you have a car or commute to campus, you’re probably familiar with the seemingly endless parking struggles on campus. RIT students complain that there are not enough parking spots, that parking permits are too expensive and that citations are given too generously and cost too much to pay off — and that’s just the beginning.
Maybe you’ve been there yourself: out the door on time, a traffic-free commute — and then you get to campus and spend 20 minutes circling S-Lot, looking for a free spot. You manage to flag down someone backing out of a spot and pull in before anyone else can take it, only to have to walk 15 more minutes to the class that’s pretty much over at this point. Another option is to park in a reserved spot and make it to class on time, but face a citation costing at least $30.
Reporter decided to conduct an in-depth exploration of parking on campus.
The Students' Side
Marina Bacino, a fourth year Film and Animation major, mentioned a time some may remember last fall when there was such a lack of parking that people parked on the grass and the road even in H-Lot — one of the biggest parking lots.
“There was a serious problem with parking everywhere on campus,” Bacino said. “A lot of my friends were late to class because they couldn’t find parking. They still got tickets, too, since they were parking on the grass. I didn’t drive for most of that semester because the parking was so bad.”
"A lot of my friends were late to class because they couldn’t find parking."
However, having a car on campus is definitely essential to some, like Lacie Kraich, also a fourth year Film and Animation major.
“There’s not much to do on campus,” she said. “If you want to get off campus and explore Rochester, then you definitely need a car."
Bacino agreed. She’d rather drive her car if it meant avoiding the huge crowds and long wait times when the buses turn people away due to overflow.
“I’d be able to get by with just the buses, but it’d be a lot more annoying [than driving and having to find parking],” she explained.
Bacino has noticed that the buses have been unusually crowded, which she finds to be an issue.
“The other day my friend and I weren’t allowed on the bus because there were so many people,” she said.
Parking citations are another significant issue for student drivers.
“I get too many parking tickets,” said Kraich. “I could be parked somewhere for five minutes — with my lights on — and still get a ticket.”
While Kraich estimated that she’s been charged $120 in fines over her years at RIT, Bacino's estimate was $500. Those numbers might seem incredibly high, but citations are easy to get and after just a few, the cost really adds up.
According to the RIT Parking and Transportation website, fines are $5 more with each additional ticket.
“In addition, vehicles that accumulate multiple unpaid citations within a 90-day period may be subject to being booted with an assessed administrative fee of $50,” the site reads.
Looking at the chart posted on their website, it’d be very easy to rack up a huge fee in no time. For example, if you park in a 20-minute spot and forget to turn on your flashers, that’s $30. If you park in the Global Village retail area the following week for one hour too long, that's another $35. Forget to pay those fines and you face another $50 fine and the possibility of being towed.
Parking citations may seem inevitable, but there are in fact ways to avoid fines. A general rule of thumb is to always look out for signs in parking lots. Make sure you know which kind of permits are allowed in the lot before you park. If you have the time in the morning, try to leave for campus a bit earlier than usual. You never know when traffic will be extra bad and cause unneeded stress when looking for parking in multiple crowded lots. Be cautious of smaller parking spaces; these typically allow parking for only 20 minutes and require that your car’s flashers are on for the duration.
Students get off easy compared to residents of the city of Rochester. Citations ranging from leaving your car parked at a meter for too long, to parking too close to a driveway could cost anywhere from $40 to $150. If you avoid paying the fine for 30 days, the $150 fine increases to $235.
If you ever get a ticket on campus, try to remember that it’s relatively low-priced compared to actual parking tickets, and know that your first parking ticket can be waived by the Parking and Transportation Office. Further parking citations can also be appealed. Paying the fine as soon as possible is the route to take, as there’s nothing worse than late fees.
While on the topic of parking lots, you might wonder why RIT doesn't build more. It's hard not to wonder if county building codes hinder their construction. However, according to Craig Eckert, deputy director of Engineering and Planning for Henrietta, RIT actually falls in the bounds of the town of Henrietta, but interestingly does not control what the campus can and cannot build.
“[RIT] is a private institution that does not pay town taxes,” said Eckert. “Therefore the town does not have any oversight in regards to code. RIT makes its own decisions on parking and has the ability to add and subtract areas as they see fit.”
"RIT makes its own decisions on parking and has the ability to add and subtract areas as they see fit.”
Even though there seems to be a clear parking dilemma, it's clear that RIT has its hands full when it comes to construction. At this moment in time, the school is still working to complete the MAGIC Center and the Alumni House. A new parking lot — with costs upwards of $100,000 — might not be the most feasible, especially considering all of the other factors that impact construction.
Though RIT has been focused more on constructing new buildings in the past few years rather than more parking lots, the school has put effort into providing alternative options for getting around campus. The bike-share program initiated last year, for example, allowed students to borrow bikes for a period of time and then return them to a designated bike rack. Though this program was largely unsuccessful last year (due to students mishandling the bikes), a different program, Pace, has been established this year. Pace is Rochester's current bike share program, which means that students now have the ability to ride the borrowed bikes around campus and all over the city. This not only cuts down on the time it takes to get to class, but eliminates the issue of needing a place to store a bike. Students who bring their own bikes to campus know how crowded the bike racks can get, especially near the dorms.
While RIT students might feel the parking situation here could be improved, other schools also have parking complications. Many would be surprised to hear that the price of a parking permit here is relatively affordable compared to that of other schools, and we also have more parking space, too.
Take Cornell University, for example.
“The parking permits here are around $800 a semester for students living on campus,” said Aaron Harbach, a third year Animal Science major at Cornell. “There are so few parking lots, though, and the permits are always oversold, leaving some students who brought cars without a place to park."
Harbach continued to describe the fines and citations Cornell doles out.
“They are pretty strict about parking citations here, too,” he said. “I once got a $30 fine for parking in a nearly empty lot on the weekend. I’ve seen a student’s car get towed because they never paid their tickets on time and just let them build up.”
Not only are parking permits more expensive and less available, but the driving conditions are potentially more hazardous. Cornell's campus is very hilly and the roads are long and winding. RIT is fortunate to have a flat campus. Though the winters are long and rough here, driving up and down steep hills and going around sharp turns in the ice and snow just to get to class isn't something students here have to deal with
At Pennsylvania State University, the situation isn’t much different. Grace Chestnut, a third year Biobehavioral Health major at Penn State, discussed her experiences.
“For my living area, it costs $320 a semester to park. It’s really expensive, but my car is right outside my building, so there are ups and downs,” she said. “There are cheaper parking permits available, but this campus is huge and I would have to park about a mile away from where I live.”
Penn State's campus is in an extremely rural area. While there are some things to do in town, driving 10 minutes off campus leads to a more remote area. To students who are not from the area, it seems like a necessity to have a car on campus.
RIT, on the other hand, might be in a somewhat rural area, but downtown Rochester and many other hotspots close by are easily accessible by bus. Plus, the campus is only a quarter of the size of Penn State. You could technically park in most lots on campus and not have to walk more than 20 minutes to get where you need to be.
What to Expect
While it doesn't seem like much is changing in regard to this situation, it's important to keep in mind that RIT is not the only school dealing with this issue. At the same time, RIT is rapidly improving and expanding, which is something everyone can get excited about.
Besides, more parking lots to accommodate for the new construction can potentially be expected in the near future. The only way to find out is to wait and see.