Commuter students tackle parking issues, unites students

Hunter Bihn, a business student, tires his best to destroy a junked Toyota Camry near The Rock on Tuesday, as part of UM's Commuter Week Car Smash, presented by The Association of Commuter Students. Mingyue Bao // Contributing Photographer

Freshman commuter student Luis Gonzalez arrives at school at least 20 minutes before his first class – not because he wants to get to class early, but because he has to find a parking spot in his designated parking zone in the area by the BankUnited Center (BUC).

“If I don’t get [to school] that early, I usually arrive late to my classes,” he said. 

Commuters like Gonzalez continue to struggle with on-campus parking since the university switched to designated colored lots in 2011. Monday marks the first day of the Association of Commuter Students’ (ACS) annual Commuter Week, an event that aims to bridge the gap between commuter and resident students at the university.

Senior and ACS member Danny Diaz recalls a time when colored parking zones didn’t exist. He believes the previous parking method was more effective. Parking, he says, was separated into three zones – preferred, resident or commuter.

“If we had commuter parking, I could park in the Wellness Center, or purple, where the walk would be five minutes as opposed to 15,” Diaz said. “It wasn’t broken before so I don’t know why we fixed it.”

Gonzalez added that another point of concern for commuter students includes losing student-designated parking spaces to service vehicles that don’t park in their allotted spots.

“In the yellow lot, I’ve seen one service spot in the corner, and then seen three [service cars] right next to each other,” he said.

Senior Alejandro Lamas says he also saw service cars parked in student-designated spaces.

“The university cars, they park in the student parking spots. Get your own spot, dude,” Lamas said. “We pay $485 for parking spots, and sometimes there isn’t a parking spot and we have to go to different parking.”

Commuter senators who represent the commuter student population in Student Government (SG) Senate say they plan to address and fix this issue with Parking and Transportation Services.

“Our main goal is to make sure the commuters have their voices heard,” said David Mejia, a freshman commuter senator. “Personally, as a commuter, I think that the issue of service cars parking in student spots needs to be addressed … I have brought it up to some senators and we will be working on a solution to that in the near future.”

Another issue commuter students face is parking availability, especially in popular areas like the yellow parking zone. Students say they’ve had a difficult time finding a parking space due to the construction of the new Health Center and frequent events at the BUC.

“I just find it frustrating that yellow lot costs the same as most other lots but gets more than half shut down multiple times a month for BUC events, and yellow pass owners are still not allowed to park in other lots,” sophomore Tara Brown said. “It’s really upsetting.”

Sophomore Camille Labrador shares similar frustrations. According to Labrador, Parking and Transportation does not release notices about parking and lot changes with enough notice for students to make alternate plans.

“They never send out the notices with enough time to plan accordingly, they usually send it out the night before, extremely late, or the morning of, and most of the time not at all,” Labrador said. “You receive a $35 ticket if you park in any other color even if there is absolutely no way yellow can accommodate even a quarter of everyone that holds the pass.”

According to Mejia, though SG is looking for an alternative, the lack of availability of parking spaces in yellow cannot be addressed right now due to the need for construction and the events.

“Construction doesn’t inhibit the main lots of yellow as much as events do,” Mejia said. “The BUC needs parking spots for games and events – those spots happen to be part of a yellow lot. We’re looking at alternatives, but again these events and the construction need to happen.”

Mejia says he encourages commuter students with concerns or frustrations about parking to reach out to their senators. Starting on Monday, students can participate in SG’s “Find Your Senator” event, which is taking place in the SG office.

“If they come to us with issues, concerns or ideas, we can voice those to administration or work on legislation that will help address them,” he said. “We work with their best interest in mind and are always available to help.”

Attempts were made to reach out to UM’s Parking and Transportation Services, but a statement was not made available at the time of publication.