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Editorial: Parking challenges force UMaine to prioritize

One complaint ever present on the lips of University of Maine students is the lack of parking. Even with the recent parking lot addition and a system that delegates parking access to various populations of campus-goers, there is still an issue of endless, filled spots and no room for commuters to park. Since commuting students often drive to campus, they deserve a promised spot for their vehicle. This is especially important given that they pay a permit fee for each semester they ask for parking rights. With spring-time accepted students days growing larger, the question of our finite parking space steals to the surface.

Last year’s incoming first-year class hit a historic high. The up-and-coming class of 2021 is looking to be much larger, based on President Hunter’s estimate of 3,200 prospective students visiting just on March 25. With these rising incoming classes, requests for parking passes will inevitably increase. With more student drivers on campus, there is more contest for limited parking spots. It may be time for UMaine to consider a tighter guideline for who is allowed parking rights on campus.

Ultimately, parking is a question of accessibility to campus. Commuter students need reasonable space to park and get onto campus. Excluding rare cases, first-year students live on campus and have indefinite access. Moving forward with bigger classes, UMaine should consider instating specific restrictions on how many parking passes are given, as well as who is permitted a parking pass. Conditions should be based on residence — whether off, on or residing very near to campus — and reason for needing campus access. Someone who attends classes, alongside employment on campus, has increased need for parking access.

Off-campus students should have priority over on-campus students. There is a difference between needing transportation to classes and work, versus wanting a car for recreation and transportation off-campus. The Black Bear Orono Express is a free option for all riders to move around the Orono community and carpooling is another option for first-years who want to explore the community outside campus.

Many colleges have stricter guidelines for parking rights than UMaine. Others don’t allow first-years to bring their vehicles whatsoever, regardless of situation. There are only so many parking lots that UMaine can reasonably pave and maintain. A limited first-year parking pass pool would lessen the stress on parking lots outside dormitory lots. Current parking lots could be shuffled around to allow more commuter spaces overall and less residential lots. With the student population increasing with each year, it is time to adapt for a new campus landscape.

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