WCU parking disrupted by increase of students and construction

The parking garage will have 1,000 parking spaces once completed. Photo credit: Tessa Bradshaw

Parking on campus has been a heated topic for many Western Carolina University students, especially after their first day of class led to a full parking lot and no place to go.

“The first day of classes I missed my 9 a.m. class in its entirety and had to wait until they made The Village parking lot available to go and park over there after having circled over an hour at all commuter lots,” said WCU commuter William Frink.

Due to all the parking issues he has faced on campus in the first two weeks, he wants to refund his commuter parking pass.

“It personally feels that the freshmen have been given priority over the commuters and in 2019 that wasn’t the case,” Frink said.

Frink feels that the newly constructed parking deck should be for freshman parking rather than commuter parking. He believes commuters should not be on the edge of the campus when many apartments in Cullowhee are already near commuter lots, defeating the purpose of the parking spots.

Not only has WCU parking affected students, but it has impacted faculty and staff as well.

“What I hear a lot from faculty and staff is that particularly with all the construction and stuff, people have had a hard time finding spaces that are relatively close to where they are working,” said David Kinner, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.

Kinner said he believes one possible solution to fix the parking issue on campus is to make it more bike-friendly and walkable. Even though there are endless solutions proposed to fix the problem, he believes WCU has been able to implement a decent public transportation system with the Cat Tran to try to alleviate problems students are facing regarding parking.

“Based on what I am hearing, I am not sure if there are always enough spaces where people would like to park,” Kinner said.

The majority of the parking issues stem from parking being less convenient, Kinner said. 

“I think it was pretty chaotic, particularly on the first day…,” Kinner said, referring to parking on the first day of classes this semester. “Regardless of what people are paying, they are paying for it. So it is a part of our obligation that we have enough parking relatively close to where people are, and particularly for people that may have a harder time getting around.”

The construction crew informed WCU Parking Operations that the new parking deck beside the Ramsey Center had a planned opening before the first day of class. On Monday, Aug. 21, construction workers told Parking and Transportation Director Fred Bauknecht that the parking deck would not be open in time.

Despite the parking deck not opening on time, “we do have enough parking for everyone, just not where they want it to be,” Bauknecht said.

Many students who commute from campus do not like that commuter lots are so far away from their classes. However, according to Bauknecht, the commuter lots were designed that way for a reason.

“We don’t want the commuters to have to go into the center of campus at any time because there is so much traffic, plus the pedestrians,” Bauknecht said.

The intended design of commuter parking lots was to be on the exterior of campus due to wanting to make the campus more walkable towards the center of campus, Kinner said.

Even with enough physical spaces, many students are still scrambling and worried about getting a parking spot.

“I now leave an hour, sometimes an hour and a half before my class if I want to have a decent parking spot,” Frink said.

The parking deck is currently partially open with about 700 parking spaces available. The parking deck is planning to open fully in October with over 1,000 parking spots, Bauknecht said.