Daemen College is the latest to struggle with one of the great challenges in higher education: Parking.
As ordinary as that may sound, colleges everywhere ponder solutions to appease the hundreds, or thousands, of commuters driving to campus each day.
What about a parking garage?
It worked for Canisius College.
Build more lots?
That’s what D’Youville College had to do.
How about a parking app?
It’s one of the many ideas under consideration at Buffalo State College.
Now, the focus is on Daemen, where students know to arrive early to get one of the 839 parking spaces on a campus that enrolls nearly 3,000 – roughly half of them commuters. Otherwise, they’re relegated to the nearby side streets, like sophomore Kayley Wasielewski.
“It’s just part of coming to Daemen,” Wasielewski said, as she walked to her car parked on a street adjacent to campus. “There’s just a lot of people – and no parking.”
But the parking problem has come to a head.
The Town of Amherst – prodded by angry Daemen neighbors – is threatening to post parking restrictions around the Main Street campus to ease student parking on residential streets and force the college to create more parking on campus.
“Everybody has the right to park on public streets,” Amherst Council Member Guy Marlette said, “but the college also has the responsibility to fit its infrastructure to meet demand and I think they’ve been slow to address that.”
“One of our concerns is paving the front of our campus,” said Robert Beiswanger Jr., vice president for business affairs and treasurer at Daemen. “In a nice, residential neighborhood like Snyder, it’s important to maintain that green space, if possible.”
Others can relate.
Parking has been a sore spot for a number of years at D’Youville in Buffalo, as it grew into a largely commuter school with some 3,000 students.
Over the past 15 years, D’Youville has purchased 40 parcels around its West Side campus and turned them into parking lots, said John Bray, a spokesman for the college.
“Parking is a problem at every campus, especially in the city,” Bray said.
And if the problem isn’t a lack of parking on campus, it’s that the parking is too far away. Everyone wants a space close by.
Ask the University at Buffalo.
UB has 16,000 parking spaces between the North Campus in Amherst and the South Campus on Main Street, but circling the lots in search of a prime spot is a well-known pastime.
“In fall 2012, the peak day and time was Wednesday at 11 a.m.,” said Maria Wallace, director of parking and transportation services at UB. “At that point in time, we still had more than 1,000 spaces within the North Campus.”
Canisius, located within the city’s Hamlin Park neighborhood, has dealt with parking complaints from students, faculty and neighbors for years.
“I’ve always said, ‘We don’t have a parking problem, we have a walking problem,’ ” said Ellen Conley, vice president for student affairs at Canisius. “We have a number of lots, but they’re not all next to the offices and classrooms.”
The situation improved when the college acquired the former HealthNow building on Main Street several years ago, Conley said. That’s because the deal included a three-story parking garage.
Meanwhile, at Buffalo State College, President Aaron Podolefsky decided he would address campus parking, after he asked students for ideas on where the school can improve.
“On every occasion, the first answer, and sometimes the only answer, is parking,” Podolefsky said last fall.
Michael LeVine, vice president for finance and management at Buffalo State, said the college has adequate parking on campus – nearly 4,000 spaces.
It’s just not always convenient, LeVine said.
Now, a committee is looking at ideas – such as car-sharing or promoting public transportation – to ease the parking. Posting a food truck in the far lots, for example, may at least make those distant walks a little more pleasant for students.
Another idea: A smartphone app that would let commuters know where and how many parking spaces are available on campus.
A parking ramp is also a consideration – although a costly one.
“To me, that’s kind of the last resort,” LeVine said. “It’s tough to make them economically feasible. You have to have a lot of turnover and the state doesn’t really want to be building parking ramps with state money.”
On a recent morning at Daemen, a line of 50 vehicles was parked in front of the school on Main Street, while more found spaces across the street on Mount Vernon Road. Most were parked on neighboring Campus Drive, where the student housing is located and Sara Grana backed into a spot.
“It’s not a big deal,” said Grana, a third-year physical therapy student. “I’ve never gotten a ticket or been late for class.”
But it’s a very big deal for some Snyder residents, who say the number of vehicles parked on their streets is not only a nuisance, but a safety issue. A count by the town last fall showed that at the parking peak, 373 vehicles were parked on side streets surrounding the college – 250 with Daemen parking stickers.
“Each year, with Daemen expanding and with their enrollment increasing, it’s been getting worse and worse,” said Gregg Haas, who lives on nearby Getzville Road.
The problem has subsided in Haas’ neighborhood, after the town restricted parking on Meadow Stream Drive in the fall and Woodbury Drive at the start of this semester.
But Marlette, the Amherst council member, believes that has just pushed the problem onto other streets.
The college has since leased 62 parking spaces at the former YMCA nearby, 30 from Amherst High School across the street and another 20 from the neighboring Campus Manor Apartments for use by students, staff and faculty, said Beiswanger, the Daemen official.
“I think it will help,” he said. “The other strategy is we’re encouraging our faculty to offer courses other than at peak demand times.”
Marlette isn’t convinced.
“They continue to grow and the problem continues to grow,” Marlette said. “They truly have to realize in order for their campus to continue to function, they have to address some of these parking concerns.”
Marlette said he believes Daemen is still probably 200 parking spaces short, and he said he will call for a public hearing in March to place parking restrictions on surrounding streets – excluding Campus Drive – to prod the college into action.
That left Wasielewski, the Daemen sophomore, with one question: “Where are we going to park?”