December 4, 2012

Editorial: Perennial parking shortage


---- — The parking situation at SUNY Plattsburgh has been a problem for decades and likely always will be.

College buildings are spread across a large area in the center of the City of Plattsburgh, with little room for expansion outside the current footprint. When a new building goes up, it takes away from the available parking or green spaces.

That has been the case twice in recent years. The science building that borders Broad Street in Plattsburgh and the business facility being built along Cornelia Street and Draper Avenue are new, showcase structures. A college has to offer modern, utilitarian buildings to house its classrooms and labs in order to attract the best students. When prospective students and their families tour colleges, they want to be impressed. State-of-the-art facilities suggest an inspired staff and a willingness to devote resources toward an ever-evolving campus.

But unlike at, say, SUNY Albany, where the campus is an enclosed community, set apart from, though in the midst of, the city, campus progress at SUNY Plattsburgh has a direct impact on surrounding neighborhoods. When open parking spaces are sparse, drivers circle the campus lots and cars fill up the sides of neighboring streets. The result: irritation all around. Students, staff and visitors are frustrated at not being able to park close to their destinations, and community members are annoyed that they can’t park in front of their own homes.

SUNY Plattsburgh officials are very aware of the problem, which, incidentally, did not start with construction of the new buildings but has been an issue for many years. Parking is limited, but so are the solutions.

Tennis courts were removed years ago — to some community chagrin — to add more parking off Draper Avenue; now that parking has been usurped by the new business building.

The college has set up shuttle buses to cart students from more remote campus locations, such as the Field House and Sibley Hall, to the heart of the action, but ridership has been low.

Officials have tried encouraging students and staff to walk more or ride bikes, suggesting it is not only more healthy but more “green.”

But those aren’t particularly appealing, or practical, ideas when the temperature is hovering around zero and snow covers the ground. Trying to get people to leave their cars behind is a tough sell.

Anger sometimes bubbles up out of the frustration. University Police officers oversee parking enforcement; but some of the ticket-writing is also handled by students who are hired for the duty. They are sometimes berated by frustrated drivers, and that behavior is completely out of line, as the ticket writers aren’t the rule writers.

We urge patience all around — there’s not much more that can be done. SUNY Plattsburgh is an important component of the economic and social vitality of this community, and a tight parking picture seems to be the penalty for progress.