An open letter about parking and transit

By: Cody Boteler, Senior Editor

I know parking is always an issue on this campus. I know commuters always have it kind of rough compared to on-campus students. Because  these two things are always happening, and not really “news” unless something big happens, we tend not to cover these topics at The Towerlight unless something big happens.

I’m tired of that narrative. For a large number of students on this campus, there are no issues more pertinent than parking and transportation. If students can’t get here on time, we can’t worry about focusing in class or getting involved with extracurriculars or what’s happening on this campus because we aren’t here when we need to be.

What I’m getting at is that parking and transportation are important for a lot of students here, and probably some faculty and staff as well, and we need to stop treating it like a non-issue.

I use the shuttle (Goucher Route) to get to and from campus just about every day that I have class. For the most part, I’m quite the fan. The shuttles save me gas money and let me cram in studying that I forgot to do the night before.

But I’ve had some uncomfortable experiences and a couple of dangerous experiences. And I’m sure everyone’s heard horror stories about the shuttles or parking.

I’ve been on shuttles where it seems like the driver acts like the bus is invincible and takes turns or makes other decisions that a driver in a normal car might not. I’ve been on shuttles that are so cramped with people standing in the aisle that a handful are in front of the white line with one or two people even standing in the stairwell, next to the door.

Now, I’m fairly certain there’s a sign that says standing in front of the white line while the bus is in motion is against the law. And I know for a fact that standing in a stairwell with your back facing a door that you could plausibly fall out of on a busy street is dangerous.

I’ve stood and waited for late shuttles (sure, sometimes unavoidable because of traffic) but I’ve heard stories of people who have waited for over an hour without any notification that their shuttle would be late.

The Black Express shuttle route between West Village and core campus had to suspend operation this semester because there’s a shortage of drivers.

And once, I was on a shuttle riding to campus when the driver decided to make a phone call.

The driver pulled over, opened the door, left it out and then hurried out, cellphone in hand.

I couldn’t tell you what the call was about, or how urgent it was.

But it did seem like that, when the driver came back on to the shuttle, that they were upset about something.

Maybe it was just confirmation bias, but it seemed to me that the driver started driving more angrily.

Issues of leaving the shuttle unattended and letting something affect driving performance, I was left wondering how the driver knew to make that phone call at that time.

It seems to me that the driver must have been looking at their phone during the route. I can’t say for sure; I wasn’t intently watching the driver the entire time. But how else?

Using a handheld phone is bad enough when you’re alone in your car, but it’s much, much worse when you’re driving a large bus — filled with dozens of other people — that is capable of doing some real damage.

And of course, parking is a mess. People tend to forget that there’s plenty of parking up near Unitas Stadium and SECU Arena, or else they’re not willing to add an extra seven minutes to their walk to class. Maybe the solution is better advertising of the parking up on the hill, maybe it’s adding more parking to main campus. I’m not going to pretend that I have every solution for every problem.

But isn’t it at least worth starting a discussion? If you’re parking on campus, you’re paying hundreds of dollars to not get fined with a parking ticket. And everyone pays into the shuttles.

We should know what’s going on. If solutions haven’t been discussed, we should start discussing them, and all members of the University community should be a part of the talks. If I’m totally naive and there aren’t any solutions for whatever reason, we should know. We should know that someone in the administration is taking seriously the concerns about parking and transportation. And if nobody’s considering them, why not?

Again. I don’t know much about what sort of complexities go into planning a parking garage or hiring drivers for a shuttle or purchasing new shuttles or anything like that. But I do know that these are issues that are important to a lot of people and are issues that merit discussion.

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