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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Parking problems, part two: complications of commuting

Published: September 16, 2011
Section: Opinions

We’re about two weeks into the school year and I’m already noticing some fundamental problems that I never encountered when I lived on campus. There isn’t enough parking for commuters; many drivers don’t follow the posted traffic signs; many students don’t check for cars when they want to cross South Street; and the campus shuttle service can be unreliable at times.

On the topic of parking, I thought it was a gift from God when my schedule worked out with no classes before 11 a.m. It seemed great that I’d be able to leave my house around 10:15 a.m.—until I got to Theater Lot that first day. Each day now, I drive through the Athletics Lot, the other lot for commuter students and, after finding no spots, I make my way up to T-Lot, where I drive in the, at times annoying, one-way system. I slowly make my way through the full parking lot. I find a spot maybe once a week. Once in a while I’ll find a good spot—maybe. Usually, I find myself driving past the very open X-Lot, where commuters aren’t allowed to park, and to the Charles River Overflow Lot. Once at Charles River, I wait for either the campus van, which is always full, or the campus bus, which always seems to be on break.

Thus, driving to school—which for me was among the better parts of high school—has become the bane of my off-campus experience.

It always appears as though most of the cars lack any kind of parking permit, not even a permit for another parking lot. While I doubt there’s enough parking for all the commuter students in that lot, a much greater percentage of us could actually park in our assigned lot if it were kept clear of unauthorized vehicles.

When it comes to driving in T-Lot, I’m surprised I haven’t been involved in a collision. So many people drive the wrong way along the one-way roads in an attempt to get to the one or two spots available. I understand that, if I drive down one of the first lanes to check for a hidden spot, I’ll inevitably wind up at the end of the line when I re-enter the main driving lane. I agree that the one-way lanes suck but, unless they change the roads, it is the system we all have to deal with.

The final problem with getting to campus in the morning occurs after I resign myself to parking at the Charles River Apartments. With a full backpack and the many hills of campus, I wait for the campus shuttle service to get up to Rabb. The problem is that it is frequently a van that shows up, already half full and unable to fit the many students waiting, instead of the Crystal shuttle bus that can fit all of us. When I lived on campus, I didn’t take the shuttle often; I lived closer and the walk was manageable, but for students living in Charles River and commuters who are forced to park there, the shuttle is important in allowing people to get to the Rabb steps without being tired and out of breath.

Lastly, in the evenings and nights when driving home from campus on South Street, not far from the Mods, is a crosswalk. At the crosswalk, there is a button that students can push to notify drivers that they are about to cross. While I didn’t consider it very useful these last few years, I’ve since noticed that it is much easier to know someone is crossing when the lights are flashing. Additionally, many students linger near the crosswalk for extended periods before deciding to cross. When I see someone lingering, I usually assume that they are waiting for a friend or to finish a phone call. It is especially useful for a commuter driver when the students who linger before walking make sure to press the button. It alerts a driver to slow down and stop.

When I got a parking permit, I thought I was lucky. I thought there were only as many permits as parking spaces and that, by applying early, I ensured that I’d be able to park on campus when I arrived for classes. Instead I found full parking lots, cars without permits, people driving dangerously and unreliable shuttles. Additionally, I’ve found that many students don’t observe basic car safety. Driving to school was once a fun start to my day. Now it’s the bane of my life as a commuter.