Editor’s Column – Myths, Realities & Parking Predicaments

Jill Ferris

The Townhouses has a parking predicament: too many cars and too few spaces. Even those of us without cars find ourselves playing hide-and-seek with parking spaces, helping our friends find temporary homes for their vehicles after every trip. The prime parking spots are those right of your townhouse; the unlucky are relegated to the far western end, and the unfortunate find themselves with no other option than the freshmen lot.

The best times to find a spot? Sunday nights when everyone is at the library or between 4:30 and 7:00 p.m. during the week. By late night, though, the pickings become slimmer and slimmer. Most Wednesday nights after The Maroon-News is put to bed around midnight Sumner Ellsworth, my co-Editor-in-Chief, and I return to the Townhouses, fingers crossed we’ll find a spot. The point is that there is simply not enough parking.

This column is not a rant about the lack of parking, though. I feel there is a larger problem facing the Townhouse community that must be addressed immediately. In the absence of adequate parking facilities, some students have begun utilizing the disability parking spaces or, to avoid that fate, the non-parking spaces that offer wheelchair access to the sidewalks.

I have noticed that it seems to be the same cars that are regularly illegally parked, but my concern is the same: it should not be an option to park in these spaces even if the rest of the lot is filled. To further illuminate this point, I’d like to debunk some myths and excuses I have heard from fellow students about handicap parking spaces:

1. Colgate can (or should) turn these spots into regular parking. False. Colgate must comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, which, among other regulations, requires that newly constructed parking lots contain a certain ratio of accessible parking spaces. This also includes loading areas (the spaces marked off with diagonal stripes) that are “van accessible.”

2. It’s ok. No one at Colgate even uses disability parking. False. As a newly built facility, the Townhouses are actually some of the most accessible buildings on campus. A student with a permanent or temporary physical disability would be able to successfully live in this community, whether that person is an athlete on crutches or someone who is wheel-chair bound. Our student population changes over every four years, and though there may be no one with such physical limitations who is currently a student, we need to be cognizant as a University of all eventualities.

3. Only Colgate students park in the lot, anyhow. Also, false. Within the course of the year, the Townhouses are visited by parents, professors and community members. We must meet the needs of these potential guests, as well, and adaptive parking is one of the possibilities.

4. I wouldn’t do this normally, but there’s no place else and I’m tired/have a lot of stuff to carry/don’t want to walk from the freshman lot. It’s not going to hurt anyone. False. While no one will be killed by parking in a reserved space, I am a strong believer in “practice makes perfect.” Within the liberal arts curriculum, Colgate places a strong emphasis on social responsibility. What is the purpose of that education, though, if we do not take its meaning to heart and recognize our own social responsibility? Also, if ticketed by Campus Safety, you face a $50 fine and having your car towed.

So this is my challenge to campus, but especially the Townhouse community. Drivers, the next time you are searching for the ever-elusive parking space, don’t just pull into a spot reserved for people with disabilities. The point is that even if you have to walk from the freshmen lot, at least you have the ability to do so. Non-drivers, pressure your friends to behave in a similar, respectful manner. And Campus Safety, at the very least, please regularly issue tickets to those who illegally park in these spaces. For repeat offenders, though, start towing cars. This is an important issue that demands drastic measures.