By AMANA KASSEM
Commuter students’ problems are constantly overlooked. At UMW, one main issue for commuters is the struggle to find parking. This may not be an issue for most people who attend UMW because they either live on-campus or within walking distance of campus. However, this is an everyday struggle for those of us that live off-campus and have to worry about whether there are parking spaces available.
Commuter students should receive preference over residential students for parking. Students who live on campus do not rely on their cars to get them to class and usually use them for going home or to go out to grab a quick bite and hang out with friends. They are taking up spaces that commuter students need.
In order to get to class on time, commuter students must leave at least 30 minutes to an hour before class starts, provided they live in the Fredericksburg or Stafford area. To secure a parking spot, they must leave even earlier so they don’t have to roam around campus trying to find a spot to park.
Parking passes should also be cheaper for commuter students, especially during the pandemic. Since most classes are held virtually, many of us are paying for parking passes we only need for one or two classes. Additionally, we are only parked on campus during the day, whereas residential students are parked there most of the time. Commuter students, UMW apartments residents, and residential students all pay the same amount for their decals.
“The parking decal fees have not changed in the past five years and no changes are planned in the near future,” said Parking Services manager Jean Elliot.
Briana Rojas, a senior psychology major, said that the last term at UMW was too costly for the limited amount of parking that commuters had access to throughout the semester.
“I believe that if there was more parking designated specifically for commuter students, we wouldn’t be stressing about if we’re going to find a space to park our vehicles,” said Rojas. “It’s as if all members of the UMW community have specific parking places except commuter students.”
She pointed out that faculty had their own designated lots and Eagle Village residents have their own designated lots, but the rest of the campus community have shared spots that people have to fight for.
“I think that there should be parking lots for each decal type, so there is less congestion at the main parking sites,” said Rojas. “That way it would be easier for everyone to find a parking space and not have to deal with the hassle of whether or not you can find a space. However, faculty and commuter students should definitely take priority due to their reliance on transportation.”
Troy Paino, President of UMW, acknowledges this problem and said that there is a plan for a new parking garage at some point in the future. “Of course, a lot depends on our ability to pay for the construction of a garage, so I would not call plans to build another parking lot imminent,” said Paino.
The current lack of student parking has led to an increased amount of citations within the student population. When students don’t find any parking spots, they are forced to take risks and park in prohibited areas, which makes students vulnerable to getting a parking ticket. According to Jean Elliot, the most common vehicle citation is UMW students parking in faculty parking lots.
UMW commuters are a vital part of the campus community, and there should be priority parking and lower decal prices to help reflect that aspect.