Many more students than usual applied for parking permits this semester, with over 40 applications to less than 10 spots. While the number of parking spots is few, the number of students interested in doling them out is even fewer. StuCo hasn’t been able to find students to serve on the Car Authorization Committee – the committee that reviews parking permit applications – for the last two terms.
The small number of awardees this semester was due to the fact that few spots on campus were vacated. The roughly 110 students who were awarded permits in the fall carried over (except for students going abroad). This means that only six to eight parking spaces were vacated by graduating seniors or students going abroad this semester.
According to Assistant Dean for Residential Life Rachel Head, it remains uncertain as to whether the increase in applicants is a fluke or a demand that’s here to stay. In the meantime, Head says she will try to ensure current permits are going to good use. According to Head, parking spaces frequently open up throughout the semester as people decide they don’t need or aren’t using their cars. If faculty and staff spaces aren’t being used, they will be assigned to students. If Public Safety, for example, notices that a student lot appears empty, an email will be sent to students who have permits for that lot asking if they are still using their permits. If not, they will be reassigned. Because of this, students are encouraged to check back in at the beginning of every month to see if spaces are available.
Applicants are given priority for spaces based on a number of factors.
“We begin by assigning students based on medical/disability need, then look at situations that have extreme extenuating circumstances. Then we start with any remaining seniors who have applied, then juniors, etc.,” Head said.
Before awarding new spaces, the committee looks at any applications to transfer from Mary Lyons parking to a closer space and tries to meet those requests first. “We try to get them as close to their dorms as possible,” Head said.
Typically, students are selected to receive parking permits by the Student Council-appointed Car Authorization Committee. The six-person committee blindly reviews applications and recommends which students should receive permits, in addition to setting policy for who receives permits. However, since no students have applied to be on this committee for the past two terms, students on the Housing and RA Selection Committees have been reviewing parking applications.
“This may be an indication that the students are not interested in the process, and that we should look at something different for future deliberations,” Head said.
Two options currently being discussed are giving the parking application review duties to the Housing Committee permanently, or allocating spaces via lottery.
“We’re currently leaning towards having a joint Housing/Parking Committee,” said Student Council co-President Gabriella Capone.
She said Student Council will wait until this round of appointments is over – in roughly two weeks – to know for certain that there is a lack of interest for the committee. The issue will also be discussed at Student Council’s meeting this Sunday.
Senior Lamie Nguyen says she is frustrated with the permit process as it is.
“I’ve applied before and gotten [a parking permit], and I had even more reasons this semester: I’m working off campus and I have a personal reason to go home frequently,” said Nguyen, who was placed on the waiting list for a permit after coming back from abroad last semester. Nguyen said the system presented an additional inconvenience because she did not find out whether or not she had a permit until the day before she moved in this semester.
Nguyen said that she would like to see a better filtering process, to distinguish between students’ needs versus students who simply want the convenience of having a car on campus.
Another slightly more expensive option for students who want cars on campus is Swarthmore Borough parking. Sometimes, according to Head, students who live off-campus can get free borough parking through their landlords.
Since the initial selection, Residential Life has been able to award an addition 14 parking spots to students on the waiting list.