Student Parking Plan in Works for Increased Campus Traffic in Fall
By Michael Ferraresi
GCU News Bureau
GCU is growing rapidly enough to make parking seem like running an obstacle course of construction crews and commuters just to get to the classroom or office.
By this fall, that crush of motorists should increase with more students and staff on campus — and everyone who spends their days at GCU will be forced to consider how parking impacts their wallets.
Students are now able to purchase their fall parking permits. They’ll choose from packages ranging from $5 to park at off-campus lots to $100-$200 packages for commuters and students who live in the dorms. For more information and to reserve permits, go to www.gcu.edu/parking.
The campus is expected to hold nearly 7,000 students by next school year, meaning that parking violations will be strictly enforced beginning in August as traffic volumes peak.
Students raised questions about the decision to charge for parking and fining motorists for violations, which officials characterized as necessary to the school’s growth. Permits are designed to be a bargain compared with other major universities, according to the GCU Campus Operations office.
Some students wonder how congested campus parking lots will be this fall considering the traffic jams they’ve dealt with this semester.
“The couple times I’ve come to the Discover GCU events it’s been like driving to the back lot and finding the last couple of spots available,” said Allie Cesmat, who’s attending GCU as a freshman this fall.
Meetings between students and staff grew contentious this semester as the pay-to-park model was unveiled.
However, the University isn’t making money on the “student-driven” demand for parking, said Sarah Boeder, senior vice president of operations for the main campus.
‘It’s going to be intense’
With the $15 million price tag on the new parking garage along Camelback Road and other construction expenses to upgrade parking and security, GCU is merely recouping a portion of its expenses, Boeder said.
Boeder characterized the decision to charge for parking as essential to creating a more efficient ground campus for students.
“To bring more people on campus, we have to be more cognizant of our resources and how to use them,” Boeder said, adding that students should expect swift and consistent fines for violating parking policies.
“It’s going to be intense,” Boeder said. “Everyone will be accounted for. You’re going to feel it build up the weeks leading up, but that first week of school (when classes begin on Monday, Aug. 27) is where it’s really going to hit.”
Students and staff can expect to see security guards cracking down on violators or motorists who fail to properly display their decals.
“In order to control parking, we need to control the access points,” said GCU Public Safety Director Henry Griffin. “Fines will have to be strict.”
Rules, permits and fines
The parking rules and regulations document approved this week by an executive committee and the Campus Operations Office goes into effect Aug. 13.
Students are required to park within the boundaries covered by the permits they purchase. Available parking permits include:
- $200: Residential students will park in designated lots on campus. Commuter students can park in the parking garage with a similar pass for $200.
- $100: Commuter students can park in the northwestern corner of campus at a lot to be developed this summer by GCU.
- $5: Off-campus parking at a lot to be developed this summer by GCU.
GCU public safety officials may boot or tow vehicles that are in serious violation of campus parking policies. Officials say their focus is on safety rather than trying to generate revenue.
Fines range from $35 for parking in the wrong zone to $150 for obstructing a Dumpster and $200 for removing or tampering with a wheel-lock device.
GCU permit-holders may transfer their parking rights between multiple vehicles, though the parking policy explains, “You are responsible for your permit at all times and all citations written while your permit if displayed.”
Fines increase based on multiple failures to register for parking.
Satellite parking likely
The Camelback Road garage, which will have more than 1,600 parking stalls, is scheduled to open by August. It will be available to commuter students, faculty, staff, and guests attending events to be held on campus, according to Campus Operations.
University executives are planning to rent multiple off-campus lots, although these have not yet been identified. Because officials are unable to know specifically how many students will be on campus on a given day this fall, it’s difficult to gauge the impact on non-students.
Steve Soukup, vice president of campus operations who oversees parking, said GCU officials have considered a process of busing motorists from off-campus lots to the main campus. Details of bus schedules and security at off-campus lots will be discussed more this summer.
Soukup added that GCU settled on its rates after researching larger universities, such as Arizona State University and University of Arizona, which charge students several hundred dollars annually to park on campus.
With GCU providing such a bargain over the years on tuition and other costs, managing the frustrations of students and other motorists is part of the parking challenge.
“We’ve done a good job of holding the line on costs, so when it comes up, it’s an extended discussion,” Soukup said.
Contact Michael Ferraresi at 639.7030 or email@example.com.