Students struggle to find parking as University grows

Changes to campus have resulted in fewer parking spots across campus, and students are frustrated. 


The construction of the new Thompson Library took away 88 student parking spots, and the record-breaking freshman class added 300 more freshmen than in the previous year. The result is more students competing for fewer parking spaces close to campus. 


Not all colleges allow freshmen to bring their cars onto campus, but Coastal does.  


Senior Emily Garza said she is angry.   


“I think that there needs to be way more, and they put faculty spots in GG, for what reason? There are always faculty spots open in Baxley,” Garza said.  


According to the Department of Public Safety, there are approximately 5,800 student parking spots compared to the faculty and staff’s 1,200 spots. Public Safety has issued 5,060 student parking decals so far this year. 


In contrast, students have to walk or take a shuttle from most parking lots. The Kimbel Library parking lot was the only large-scale lot where students could park directly in front of a building on the campus interior. These spots were lost in the Thompson Library construction. 


Faculty and staff have the option to purchase a $75 barcode that allows them to park in gated lots in front of Brittain Hall, the Wall Building, Academic/Office Classroom II, and across from the science buildings.  


Chief of Public Safety David Roper said students’ parking complaints are nothing new and happen every year at the start of school.  


“This always happens in the first two weeks. We try to give a week of ticket forgiveness with ‘Pack the Pantry’ and be very lenient on writing tickets,” Roper said. “We try to put warnings to let them know they can’t park there, and once we start writing tickets it always comes to this.”  


He said students’ issue with parking is not the number of spots, it is the spots’ distance from buildings. Parking lots like YY, DDD and BBB are almost always empty, according to Roper. These lots are located off of the main campus—YY is off Highway 544 near a nail salon, and DDD and BBB are off of Highway 501 near the Coastal Science Center. 


Coastal shuttles transport students to campus from these off-campus lots, but students report problems caused by long waits and packed shuttles. According to the Department of Transportation, the University operates 19 shuttles, and each shuttle can accommodate 38 seated passengers and 50 with standing riders. This means a total of 950 passengers are able to ride campus shuttles at any time. 


According to Coastal’s Campus Shuttle website, waits are approximately 10 to 15 minutes for the Teal and Black shuttles that transport students from the lots at University Place, HGTC, Coastal Science Center, and from pick up spots on main campus. Waits can be up to 20 to 30 minutes for the Black/White and Bronze shuttles that transport students from locations off campus, including the YY lot and Walmart.  


The YY express promises 10 to 15 minutes waits and transports students directly from the parking lot to campus.  


“Quite frankly, what can we do? There’s only so many parking spots within the interior of the campus,” Roper said. “If you go look at the YY lot, it’s 90% open. We have places to park, we just don’t have places to park where that individual wants to park.”   


Coastal is in the second year of a new system for distributing parking decals. Instead of paying out of pocket for the decal, the cost is included as a transportation fee in students’ tuition, Administrative Operations Manager Dee Braswell said. 


All students pay a $125 per semester transportation fee, which covers the cost of a parking decal and use of campus transportation.   


Anonymous posters put up around campus during the first week of school encouraged students to go and voice their concerns. The posters called for a peaceful protest “to discuss and demonstrate our action of protest.” 


“As long as it’s peaceful they have their right to voice their opinion just like anyone else.” Roper said.