Slim parking pickings pain professors

by Cathy Wu | 1/29/07 6:00am

Parking has become an increasingly headache-inducing problem for many professors and staff. Several professors have written letters detailing their frustrations with the current parking situation in the parking lot shared by the Thayer School of Engineering and the Tuck School of Business.

Thayer Director of Public Information Catherine Lamm, who has received the messages, said that within the past year the parking problem has reached a crisis point. She is in the process of collecting the feedback from professors before she submits the responses to the Provost's Office.

For Lamm, a mother of three, the difficulty of parking on campus cuts into her work flexibility.

"The effect on my morale was quite significant," she said. "To try to get to work, trying to do a good job, and then have Dartmouth slap me with $20 parking fines."

Engineering professor Benoit Roisin shares Lamm's frustrations. He avoids parking problems by getting to work early, but understands the complications limited parking creates for staff with families.

"Nowadays, once I have a parking spot, I so jealously guard it that I refrain from running an errand at lunch time for fear of not finding a space again later," he wrote in a letter to be passed on to the Provost.

Government professor Lucas Swaine expressed his concern about the effect the parking crunch has on productivity.

"If convenient parking isn't actually available to them, [professors] may instead work at home and thereby not participate in a variety of campus activities," he said. "So that would be kind of a shame I think."

One professor, who preferred to remain anonymous because the College was criticized in the letter, wrote that the dearth of parking affects the quality of his work.

"I am reluctant to go to the medical center at the hospital (where my colleagues work) during the workday because of the hole it punches in my schedule," the professor wrote. "There is a strong incentive to go home after any meeting out there, instead of returning and dealing with the Ledyard lot."

Although many pay $10 per month for the parking privileges, those that cannot find parking often park illegally.

Some resort to parking at remote lots and must wait for shuttle buses that come every 10 minutes to transport them back to campus.

"The options are to either park illegally (which most do) or park over at the Medical School and take the shuttle bus back to Thayer," wrote engineering professor Brian Pogue.

For those using the shuttle bus, sometimes the wait is long and the ride impractical.

"I actually do use the bus occasionally, but I am often carrying something for an experiment and that is not practical," wrote engineering professor Paul Meaney.

While the College is not unfamiliar with parking complaints, the administration emphasizes that it is a matter of how far one is willing to walk.

"My response is, 'Yes, we know there are certain areas of campus that have a shortage,'" William Barr, director of fiscal and auxiliary services, said. "But there are other areas that have parking. You have to make use of where it is. Take the bus or walk to where it is."

According to Barr, parking spots were created along Webster Ave. to help ease the parking shortage faced by staff at Thayer and Tuck.

And in 2002, the College established a Parking Decal Buyout Program to create monetary incentives for faculty and staff who choose not to use their parking privileges. Payouts range from $15 to $30 a month depending on the distance from the participant's home to the College.

Because of the program, Dartmouth was named the Commuter Choice Employer in May 2003 by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Transportation.

Even with the payouts, some professors still remain dissatisfied.

"I would add that discouraging people from driving is an ostrich-head-in-the-sand policy because for most people, not driving is not an option," Roisin said. "The reason lies in the high real estate prices of the Hanover area."

Many professors have suggested solutions to the parking problem, which range from reshaping the land to reduce green space to building multiple level parking garages.

As for the new lots behind the MacLean engineering building, Barr admitted that when the building was designed, the idea of parking garages was brought up but scrapped for reasons of expense.

As new buildings open and the campus becomes more pedestrian-oriented, College parking is about to get more difficult, he said.

Some professors have given up the fight to create more parking spaces.

"The other half have reached a level of resignation and frustration about it and just assumed that it wouldn't do any good [to write a letter]," Lamm said.

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