I am sure that I speak for a number of people when I say that parking at Virginia Tech can be a nightmare. With over 30000 students here, it is no surprise that the prized parking space closest to your office is challenging to get. And, it’s not just undergraduate and graduate students who complain. I have heard numerous faculty and staff complain that they cannot find parking either. So … what is the solution?
Fortunately, Blacksburg is a very walking and bike-friendly place (at least compared to other places I have lived, like Richmond and Norfolk). A lot of my friends and co-workers bike to campus each day. Another large percentage take the bus. But … I have heard through the grapevine that even the bus is overcrowded, particularly at peak times (i.e., 8-9am; 4-6pm). It also can be a long ride. A friend told me that he has to take the 9am bus to even hope to get to the office by 10am (and he lives within a few miles of campus).
Parking services has some nice carpooling options as well. However, despite all of the people who utilize bikes, their own feet, public transportation, and carpooling, I still have to “shark” around almost every day to find a parking spot. And by “sharking” I mean, driving slowly up and down each parking lot aisle, waiting to see a person walking with keys in hand. Then … you gun it to figure out where this person is going. Half the time some other person sharking wins the spot. It’s ridiculous. If I don’t get here by 8:30 (which I often don’t on days when I have night classes), this is my reality. Or, I park very far away from where I work (which isn’t really an issue, except when the weather is bad or I have a lot to carry).
This may seem a little off topic, but I do have a point. Higher education has a hierarchy – which we have discussed in class. In the most basic of terms:
Parking, sort of, follows this hierarchy. Faculty and staff parking permits allow F/S to part in the “best” spots – spots closest to buildings where people work. And, that makes sense. F/S should have better parking spots than students. Resident (R) parking passes are on the bottom of the food chain – that’s fine – most of the people who R parking passes are 18 year old freshman. They are young and can get where they need to go faster than an “old” graduate student like me can. They also live on campus, so likely don’t use their cars everyday.
But … this is where the hierarchy of parking stops. We also have teaching assistant (TA) and graduate/commuter (G/C) spots. TA spots are typically pretty prime too. In some lots, the TA spots I would argue are “better” than the F/S spots. Teaching assistants are obviously really important and deserve to find parking – however, what about the rest of us? The GRAs, fellows, etc? Is our work not important too? Not so much, based on parking rules.
“Standard” graduate students (i.e., not TAs) get lumped in with the 22000+ undergraduate commuters. Why? Graduate students are working for the university – we do research, we try to make the university look good, we mentor undergraduates …. Why can’t we get our own parking spots? Why do we have to compete with the commuters every day? I don’t understand.
And … unfortunately … I don’t think our advisors would appreciate it if this is the attitude we took about parking (see below). I know nothing about this situation likely will change (or at least not while I am here). But, I do think graduate students should be allowed to purchase separate passes from undergraduate commuters and have specified spots. The spots don’t even have to be “better” than the commuter spots – just separate from commuter spots so we can actually find parking and get back to doing our graduate student work faster.