Over the past month, thanks to Mother Nature’s generosity, Springfield College students have added a new activity to their weekly routines: freeing their cars from the snow and moving them out of the way of plows.
But the task of clearing away several inches of snow may not be nearly as daunting as the one that follows it: finding a parking space in one of the overflow lots on campus.
John Mailhot, Springfield College’s Vice President for Administration and Finance, described the process of students relocating their cars within one or two days of a snowstorm from their assigned lots to those designated by the college during times of snow removal.
If students do not adhere to the policy, there is a possibility their cars will be towed and they could be fined.
Between February 3 and 17, a two-week period that saw at least a foot of snow and two days of cancelled classes due to inclement weather, Public Safety issued 128 tickets overall for parking violations.
Sophomore Jessica Fournier, a commuter student who makes the 20-minute drive to campus five days a week, said that it often becomes difficult to find a place to park during the winter months.
A Physical Education and Nutrition double-major, she often finds herself parking on the opposite end of campus from her classes.
“I usually park right by the PE Complex,” Fournier said, “but if there are no spots, I park all the way down by Public Safety. Sometimes I get stuck parking in the teacher parking lot because there are no spots due to the snowbanks.”
According to the Springfield College Department of Public Safety, for the 2013-2014 academic year, a total of 2,529 vehicles were registered by students, faculty and staff, though this number does not take into account multiple vehicles registered to the same owner.
Mailhot estimates that there were more than 700 commuter passes issued this year, though he says this number does not acknowledge that some students may only be on campus once or twice a week.
That being said, Mailhot still believes there are enough spaces available, even with the snow.
“There are sort of two questions working,” Mailhot said. “The first question is: Do we have enough parking spaces on campus? And the answer to that is yes. The second part of that question is, are there enough parking spaces on campus where people want to park? And the answer to that is no.”
Mailhot said that the college is looking to expand parking along the exterior of the campus, and that is has recently acquired a lot on the corner of Wilbraham Avenue and King Street, across from the softball field.
The college is not only addressing locations for parking, but its policies on the matter as well.
“We had talked in the past about the satellite lot,” Mailhot said. “The parking fee for people willing to park further away from campus was, let’s say [hypothetically], $50 instead of $100, or free. It’s a student who’s not taking their car out on a daily basis, someone who’s not going to a job or an internship. The advantage is that it starts freeing up some more spaces in the areas that students would really prefer to park.”
Another proposal, Mailhot said, toys with the idea of general parking, in which students aren’t assigned lots and instead just drive around until they find empty spaces. He said that he is hoping to engage the students, particularly the Student Government Association, before a decision is made.
Junior Kate Nulle said that she liked the idea of less restricted parking on campus.
“I think that’s a really good idea because I know that I can only park in two lots,” Nulle said, “and they’re both commuter lots. It’s really crowded and I have to walk across campus [to get to class].”
But with every new idea comes its drawbacks. For example, Mailhot wonders if opening up the Townhouse and Senior Suites as general parking will discourage students from continuing to live on campus as upperclassmen, if parking is no longer accessible.
Mailhot admits that just as no new plan will be perfect, neither is the process of plowing and moving vehicles.
“There’s no doubt, you can’t free up every single space in every single lot,” Mailhot said. “There’s definitely shrinkage in the lots, but we really do try to minimize that all we can.”
And with the most recent flurries and that pesky groundhog’s prediction delaying spring still a week further, winter doesn’t seem to be over quite yet. But as for that, Springfield College students will just have to wait, with shovels in hand, and see.