Because lots close to academic row fill quickly, commuters regularly have to walk from distant lots to get to class. Despite persisting complaints about a lack of parking spaces, new lots or garages have not been constructed because of prohibitive costs. Photo by Kristina Soetje.
Since the beginning of Fall 2017, 12,370 parking permits have been issued to UMBC students, staff and faculty. There are, however, only approximately 7,200 parking spaces at UMBC. The ratio between permits and available parking spots has left students struggling to find parking spots.
Many students want to park in the Commons garage and inner loop because these locations are close to campus. However, they are forced to look elsewhere due to the lack of available space. Director of parking services Chuck Boddy says, “After 12:00 p.m., you’re going to have to shoot for Poplar or Stadium lot. Not a lot of people check those areas.”
Though some students feel like there are insufficient spaces, Parking Services reports that there were always open spots last Fall. “We haven’t been 100 percent full since the beginning of the [Fall] semester,” Boddy says. “We weren’t even close to 100 percent this beginning of the [Spring] semester. Demand goes way down in the Spring.”
The Walker Avenue garage, Commons Drive garage and Administration Drive garage have an estimated 1,100 spaces combined. The 29 lots on campus total to about 4,400 parking spaces. On-street parking adds an additional 1,500-1,600 spaces.
Parking services guarantees that all UMBC students can receive permits. UMBC parking is less restricted compared to the University of Maryland College Park, where only upperclassmen are eligible to register for parking.
Parking spaces at UMBC are the most congested on Tuesdays and Thursdays between 11:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. “Ultimately, everything is based on scheduling,” says Boddy. “If we had more Friday classes, maybe it would help balance the parking.”
On Fridays, parking lots and garages tend to be emptier due to the lack of students taking classes. Some students avoid Friday classes to stay home or spend the day out, while others have religious conflicts on Fridays. Junior computer science major Adam Snyder says, “I try to avoid Fridays so I can celebrate the Sabbath.”
Commuters favor parking spots that are close to campus. Parking spaces in the Commons garage and inner loop fill before noon. “The best place for me to park is in the outer loop,” Snyder says, “[those spaces] rarely gets taken and I always know where I am.”
Sometimes searching for a space takes over twenty minutes. “The most it ever took was 25 minutes for me,” Snyder says. “But a friend of mine once took forty minutes.”
A new parking system is set to debut this Fall. Boddy says it will measure the total occupancy of the Commons garage and display parking availability. “If [students] saw it was full beforehand, they wouldn’t have to worry about wasting time going up four levels,” says Boddy.
UMBC Parking Services receives most of its revenue from permit sales and visitor parking fees. Parking ticket revenue is an additional source of income. 6,000 violations were issued since the beginning of the Fall 2017 semester. “Most of them are due to invalid permits,” Boddy says.
Boddy says building more parking spaces might be economically infeasible. “One space in the garage costs about 19,000 to 20,000 dollars. For a flat lot, a space costs about 4,000 to 5,000 dollars,” he says. “If the garage needs some leveling or clearing of forests, it can cost 27,000 to 28,000 dollars per space.”
Affording construction fees requires UMBC to issue bonds. “Eventually, all that money has to be paid back,” Boddy says. “This could increase permit costs and other transportation fees.”
Other construction projects might cause parking spaces to be removed. “All that construction is annoying. It shuts down other things and gets in the way,” Snyder says.
“If the next garage is built,” Boddy says, “it will likely be for the replacement of parking lots lost due to new construction of a building.”