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The Dartmouth
June 23, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Verbum Ultimum: Parking Problems

The College should do something to address the lack of adequate parking options for students and reduce the price of parking violations to match the Town of Hanover.

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Parking on campus is difficult and expensive on its own, but with overpriced campus parking violation tickets, it becomes nearly impossible. Dartmouth is a walkable campus, and cars aren’t needed for most day-to-day routines, especially since the College has some alternative transportation methods, such as the Campus Connector and MobiliD. However, sometimes a car is necessary. 

Students may use cars to explore the Upper Valley or do outdoor activities they enjoy, such as biking, hiking and skiing. A huge draw to living in Hanover is its proximity to outdoor trails, many of which require a car to get to from Dartmouth’s campus. Students may also need a car to transport larger objects from one spot on campus to another, such as musical equipment. As students become upperclassmen and take on leadership positions, it becomes more and more useful to have a car: Members of this Editorial Board used one member’s car to get materials for the Club Fair at the start of the term and pick up food and supplies for The Dartmouth’s formal in the spring. Cars are also occasionally needed for move-in, off-campus jobs and shopping for groceries or home goods off campus. 

With the Winter Parking Ban going into effect from Nov. 15 to April 30 — banning parking in all town public spots from 12 a.m. to 7 a.m. and all College lots from 2 a.m. to 6 a.m. — the Editorial Board would like to highlight the already limited parking options on campus and excessive cost associated with parking tickets. Due to such limited parking spaces, we have noticed that students are occasionally forced to park in lots not specifically designated for student use out of convenience. When these lots are already expensive, charging $1.90 per hour, they become even more inaccessible to students in the winter months, as they become subject to the Winter Parking Ban. We have noticed that this ban, although important for keeping the roads safe in snowy weather, often has the unfortunate effect of encouraging students who are exhausted or inebriated to move their car to avoid a fine, despite their incapacity to drive. 

For many students living on-campus, A-Lot is one of the few  parking locations open to students for long-term use, even though it is about half a mile away from the center of the Green. There is also termly parking available at Greek houses, but these spots can be prohibitively expensive, typically costing $300 at minimum. While Hanover is a relatively safe location, the drive to and walk from A-Lot may put students at risk. Students who have moved their car during the day may forget that they need to move back to A-Lot for the night. This can result in students driving home late at night when they are excessively tired or even when they are inebriated. In winter, students may move their car back to A-Lot due to the Winter Parking Ban and walk over 15 minutes home. In the dangerous cold of Hanover winters, this can put students at risk of frostbite. The danger becomes even worse when multiple factors are at play — for example, the student is tired or inebriated. 

Considering how limited parking options already are — particularly for students living on campus — the penalties for parking violations are excessive and unfair. The College always charges $25 for unauthorized parking and $50 if a car is parked in a campus lot during designated reserved hours on weekdays. During the Winter Parking Ban, the College also charges $75 if a car is parking in a campus lot any day from 2 a.m. to 6 a.m. These ticket prices seem highly inflated compared to even Hanover’s penalties for these offenses: A member of this Editorial board has received a $15 fine for parking at an expired meter in town, and a $30 fine for violating the Winter Parking Ban. Although these ticket prices may be variable, the College’s fines seem to be harsher.There is no reason that the tickets should have such a vast difference in price, and we urge the College to match the Town of Hanover’s ticket prices. 

The Winter Parking Ban and excessively high parking ticket prices also negatively impact certain students who live off-campus. One member of the Editorial Board lived off campus in White River Junction one winter term. In order to access campus activities, she had to drive to campus almost every day, but she would either have to drive home before 2 a.m. or get a ticket because of the Winter Parking Ban. Summit on Juniper is a housing option that is a 10 minute-drive from campus, and students living in these apartments are required to drive or take the Campus Connector bus to campus. Many students who live here opt to drive because it allows flexibility in departure and arrival times, a storage option for extra items they may need throughout the day and the ability to grocery shop in the Upper Valley. The current parking and ticketing system makes it very difficult for students living in Summit on Juniper and students living around the Upper Valley to participate in social life. 

As the College continues to invest in housing and build housing farther away from the center of campus, having a car will become more necessary, and the parking shortage will become an increasingly significant problem. At her inauguration on Sept. 22, President Sian Leah Beilock pledged to create 1,000 new beds for students, faculty and staff during her tenure. We believe that the College should do something sooner rather than later to address the shortage of parking, and in the meantime, make parking violation fees more sensible. 

The root of the problem seems to be the lack of convenient, affordable places to park around campus for students, and we urge the College to find a workable solution so students do not feel the need to park illegally. We believe there are several viable options already on campus: For one, Maynard Lot, right behind the McLaughlin dorm cluster, typically has an abundance of available space  and is closer to the center of campus than A-Lot. so Perhaps the College could sell termly passes for Maynard Lot, or another location more central to campus, to students as well as faculty and staff. Still, we recognize that any change could lower the available space for faculty, staff and others, and the College may be hesitant to make such changes. We are aware that the demand for parking is high, and the space available is extremely low. In the meantime, we ask that the College be empathetic to students’ lack of parking options by lowering ticket prices to be more reasonable, as well as considering the expansion of student parking options.