The Event Center, built between the exit to I-95 and the stadium lot, displaced parking spaces just with its creation. Its use displaces even more student spaces. Photo by Inayah Entzminger.
It is not uncommon for high schools and community colleges to use university stadiums and gyms to host their commencements. They have limited space and cannot accommodate an entire graduating class and their parents. UMBC itself has been hosting local high school and community college commencements for years.
However, the combination of non-university commencements and the sudden influx of events at the new Event Center has caused massive parking problems. Parking on campus is already sparse for commuting students and having to compete with cars from out of town only makes things worse.
UMBC sections parking lots by letter for specific groups of people on campus. People with A, B or C permits are allowed to park in any of the three letter lots during the summer for convenience, but generally parking outside of your designated lot will result in a ticket.
Commuter students must only park in A lots during spring and fall semesters. One of the A lots, Stadium Lot, serves as event parking as well. Outside of Hilltop Circle and beyond Wilkens Avenue, there is no parking available for UMBC commuter students anywhere near campus. The F lots in the south Research and Technology Park are only for residential freshman student use.
At the end of May of this year, UMBC held two separate undergraduate commencements and a graduate commencement. The undergraduate commencement occurred on the last day of finals, meaning several hundred students needed to park on campus to take their finals while hundreds of parents and graduates also parked in campus lots.
UMBC also hosted the Howard Community College commencement. All of these events were during the day, so pedestrian and vehicle traffic caused delays for students who needed to study or take exams.
Students at UMBC are still inconvenienced during the summer when spring semester ends. Dozens of classes are held during the summer to help students keep up with their major schedule, so students still need to park on campus lots every day to attend them. The Event Center holding non-school related events, even though most of them occur in the evening, increases traffic in and around the UMBC campus for students who may study in the library or in campus buildings.
The traffic congestion is so bad that the UMBC Police Department sends out emails to everyone on campus, warning them of the influx in cars expected during event days. These are helpful in theory, as they may prevent a student who does not need to be on campus from having to wait in traffic. If the student has no choice but to be on campus, the email only provides an explanation to a problem they cannot avoid.
Because UMBC poured so much student and state money into the Event Center, there is no way for students to protest its continued third-party use. Instead, students have to contend with limited parking within their designated section and increased traffic for the foreseeable future.
When the fall semester begins and the normal amount of students, faculty and staff need to park on campus, there is going to be even less available parking. If the amount of third-party events do not decrease, UMBC must allocate funds into building more parking decks and lots on campus to keep up with demand.