On the first day of the fall 2016 semester, students trying to park on campus found a shortage of open spots.
Those who usually parked in the gravel lot located across from the Jr. Food Mart convenience store found out today that the lot is no longer available for university use.
University of Southern Mississippi Parking Management Communication Officer Crystal Bunch said the lot belongs to the City of Hattiesburg.
“It is not our property anymore and has not been for over a year,” Bunch said. “It is the property of the city. Last year [the city] didn’t have it blocked off.”
Some students complained about having to come to campus an hour earlier to find a parking spot – unsuccessfully.
Ajanae Tolliver, a senior psychology major, said campus is congested.
“It doesn’t make sense to close down potential parking areas when we are in need,” Tolliver said. “People have to get to class. How do you get to class when you can’t park on campus?”
Parking Management said they are aware of the current parking inconvenience to the students. However, they believe the existing parking spaces offer enough spots for everyone.
According to USM’s Parking Management website, parking permits for students, faculty and staff are $162. Penalties for parking in the wrong zone, parking in a handicapped space or parking a non-registered vehicle on campus can accumulate fines more than $25 – 200 per offense.
Senior anthropology major Mark Kudron said he was foregoing parking this semester and biking to campus as an alternative.
“I made sure that I’m biking this semester because last semester, for me, it wasn’t necessarily the most horrible thing ever,” Kudron said. “But I feel like students that are paying for parking – the options should be better.”
On Aug. 17, Parking Management sent a mass email to students regarding parking on campus and virtual permits.
“The University has implemented a license plate recognition (LPR) system and has switched to a virtual permit parking system on all University-controlled properties,” Parking Management wrote. “Physical permits will no longer be issued. Students are allowed to have two vehicles assigned to their virtual permit; however, both vehicles are not allowed to park on campus simultaneously.”
Senior anthropology major Eve Carter said last semester parking during the spring semester sucked.
“I always ended up far away [from my class],” Carter said. “This new system with the tags [makes] me kinda nervous.”
Parking Management wrote that anyone who registers a vehicle after Sept. 9 will be charged an additional $5, and students will now receive e-citations, electronic citations via email, for parking violations.
“Students should park in their designated zones: Commuter, Resident, Village, Fraternity and Open Zones,” Parking Management wrote.
“The inconsistency of parking made me get a bike,” Kudron said. “ With parking, you never know what the situation is going to be. It’s not so bad in the fall or spring. It is [steadily] going up.”
Carter said she ended up parking at the baseball lot.
“There [are] always parking [spots] there.”
To contact USM Parking Management for more information about student parking, citations or permits, call 601-266-4943.