No more trolling for spaces. No more ugly confrontations when someone beats you to a spot. No more screaming at someone who just goes out to the car for a smoke – and doesn’t leave. No more being late for class because you couldn’t find a place to park.
No more excuses.
After a $12.7 million investment, the controversial parking structure is open for business this week, creating an estimated 544 more parking spaces.
Traffic patterns, however, may prove to be a challenge to some because of road construction not yet completed.
According to Associate Vice President of Facilities Development and Operations Damon Flowers, the road built to connect Lot 7 at the Liberal Arts building to Lot 1 at the Morris Lawrence building will eventually be finished, but the Washtenaw County Road Commission will not permit opening it until some additional construction on Huron River Drive is completed.
Former Trustee David Rutledge, now a state representative, was one of the strongest proponents of the structure. He warns that no one should think all the parking problems are solved. He still encourages everyone at the college to evaluate the need for carpooling and to consider the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority bus routes.
“Students have complained for years about spending more time looking for parking on campus than they spend in class,” Rutledge said. “While the structure will provide welcomed relief, this structure is not the answer. Students and the college should still look for alternatives to get to campus.”
While the structure will be embraced by many, liberal arts transfer Janelle Eschler, 25, of Ann Arbor said she has no intention of using it. She opposed its construction.
“I won’t drive to avoid using the structure due to the ecosystem that was disturbed during construction,” Eschler said. “Enrollment dropped like 30 percent just due to the economic situation and financial aid being revised.”
Rutledge said the area used for the structure included more brush than mature trees.
“From everything I understand, it was an area that wasn’t environmentally big, but most trees were replaced around campus and we tried to treat that area as sensitively as possible throughout construction,” Rutledge said.
Former President Larry Whitworth said that the structure has been long overdue.
“Yes. Enrollment had a big dip this past semester but the problem goes back 13 years ago when we only had 10,000 students. Still then, we had a parking problem,” Whitworth said.
While enrollment dipped in Fall 2011 from record highs a year earlier, Whitworth confirmed that it’s projected that community college enrollment will continue to grow.
“People need to return to school throughout life,” he said. “Many people need to return to remain economically viable.”
The structure will not only provide more parking, but three of the four floors will be covered. While it will not be heated, the facility features two elevators and light sensors throughout
Flowers confirmed that students will not be able to access the Liberal Arts building after hours through the new glass-covered bridge. Security will also be housed on the first floor of the structure, and there will be 24-hour security throughout the building – as there is across campus.
“There are also 30 cameras that were installed in the structure and on the road to ensure no dead spots throughout,” Flowers said. “Call boxes have also been added on each floor if an emergency occurs.”
While the parking structure comes as welcomed relief, Rutledge hopes that the college is now rethinking its plan for the future – if it needs more parking.
“For too long, the college held a concept to building surface parking,” he said. “I hope that philosophy is evolving when expanding up instead of out.”