It’s happened to all of us before, whether it be last year or the year before that. You pull into campus hoping and praying that by one thread of luck you can find just one.
You turn onto the campus circle and check by the houses. Nothing. You loop around and hang a right headed toward Hoff. Nada. Your last chance all comes down to Observatory, and as you pull down each row the dreaded doom of your very last resort haunts you.
Finally, the last row ends. Absolutely zero spots left. You hang your head in sorrow as you turn left onto South Street and drive away from everything. Some may play “Africa” by Toto on the aux.
It seems like each year, it gets harder and harder to find a parking spot on campus. This year seems especially tough, as even South Lot seems to be more occupied than ever.
Attribute that to the rough estimate of 80 more registered vehicles this year, according to Keith Molinari, director of public safety.
Alex Fernald, a sophomore here at Castleton, understands how precious a close parking spot is.
“I don’t want to leave campus because I don’t want to lose my spot and park in Africa,” Fernald said.
Students are frustrated because South Lot is never a fun trip.
The parking spot battle is not any easier for commuters. Some who say they could quickly and easily find spots last year and make it to class on time are struggling to find spots this year. This could be caused by the 20 percent increase in enrollment, as Molinari explained that there’s roughly 100 more students than last year.
Lauren Hodsden and Lauren Fabian, both commuters, expressed their frustration.
“I always come a half an hour early for class so that I’m not late. I hate being late,” Hodsden explained. “Well I drove around the parking lot for 15 minutes trying to find a parking spot, panicked, and then drove the quarter mile back to my grandparents’ house and had my grandma bring me to class and drop me off.”
Fabian shared the frustration, not just because of the lack of spots, but also because of Castleton’s new parking policy.
“You pay $80 for a pass in commuter and there’s still no parking,” she said in an annoyed tone.
The fee, which is new to Castleton for the 2018-2019 school year, has students on edge as well.
Jeff Weld, dean of Advancement at Castleton, explained that the fee is to help pay for parking lot maintenance and security.
“The money will go toward the direct costs of providing parking for our students such as repair and maintenance of pavement, lighting, lining, snow removal, and clerical costs such as permit stickers and tickets,” explained Weld.
He said he believes that the funds received from the fee will ultimately benefit those students who park on campus.
Molinari, who has taken many calls at public safety about the new parking policy, discussed how the fee is not too pricey, especially compared to surrounding colleges.
“Who do we compare to? Who is free? We were lucky to go as long as we could,” he said.
To his point, the University of Vermont’s parking fee is $330 for residents for the year. Middlebury College’s fee is $100.
“The easiest, fairest solution is to charge as minimal as possible,” Molinari emphasized, “which is quite lower than any of our competition, even if we don’t cover all the snow removal, paving, and lining, we at least recouped a portion.”
He also suggested to students that they come in earlier for class in order to get their closer parking spot. Molinari timed the walk from the furthest spot in South Lot to the Old Chapel and it took 11 minutes. He explained that the best and safest option is to arrive at least 15 minutes before class. Even if you can’t park close, he said, students will have plenty of time to walk.
“No one is used to that. You didn’t have to before. Say in the last few years we had smaller classes, more spots,” he said.
Molinari pointed out that Castleton’s peak parking times, when the lots are most full, are Monday and Wednesday mornings. He also noted that traditionally, the first few weeks of the year is usually the busiest as well.