UNC is no stranger to parking calamities. The combination of a confusing parking system, an unresponsive Transportation and Parking office and a proclivity to technical errors causes difficulties for students when they try to park on campus.
Starting this semester, all students living on campus or in the Chapel Hill area are required to test weekly for COVID-19 at one of three locations. There’s a choice of the Student Union, CURRENT ArtSpace + Studio or Rams Head Recreation Center, but the Student Union is arguably the most popular of the three testing locations.
Yet there are only 10 parking spaces in the Undergraduate Library Lot reserved for students who are testing. The lot itself is also quite narrow and was likely not designed to comfortably handle two-way traffic. If anything, reserving just a few spots on Stadium Drive — right across the street from the Undergraduate Library — for COVID-19 testing could reduce the frenzy of students all vying for the same 10 spots.
Still, the worst part of UNC Transportation and Parking might be that the system is not forgiving — even when you are paying for mistakes on their end.
Gabriela Robles, an out-of-state junior transfer, paid for a general parking lot pass upon arriving at UNC, but was unaware that the lot was off-campus. After requesting a parking pass closer to her dorm, it took the Transportation and Parking office a few weeks to approve it.
In the meantime, she had to pay $5 for a daily parking pass in order to keep her car on campus. By the time she received her delayed parking pass, she had spent over $50 on daily parking passes.
To add insult to injury, despite paying for a daily pass, Transportation and Parking continued to ticket her. Robles was forced to fight these $25 tickets, but “it was impossible to reach them, especially during COVID because of their limited hours,” she said.
Although she ultimately prevailed and was not charged the additional $25 per “violation,” it was frustrating because, on top of the stress of last semester, she had to continuously contact Transportation and Parking by both phone and email.
“The problem is that their phone hours are limited and email usually takes several days for a response, so I would try both outlets until someone finally responded back,” Gabriela said.
The lack of a timely and effective response from Transportation and Parking is a common denominator among most of the issues that students face when parking at UNC.
Unfortunately, even though the demand for parking on campus has decreased since the pandemic began, UNC is still unable to resolve parking issues in a satisfactory manner.
Ariayana Harrell is a sophomore who was able to obtain a valid parking pass. But upon entering the parking deck, the OneCard that was supposed to have her permit was not working. A campus police officer had to intervene in order for her to gain access into the parking deck.
Harrell is not the only student who had technical issues. Sophomore Jackie Ruiz worked at UNC Student Stores earlier this year and was also unable to enter Cobb Deck despite having a parking permit specifically for that deck. She tried contacting Transportation and Parking, and was directed to the One Card office.
“The One Card office said everything was fine with my card …(and) that they also had other people come in saying they couldn’t get into parking decks with their One Card either,” Ruiz said.
There are bugs in the system, which is standard for any system that utilizes technology. As students, we understand if there are sporadic issues here and there.
But it’s the lack of open communication from Transportation and Parking that makes the situation exasperating.
If UNC informed students ahead of time that people were experiencing trouble with their parking passes on their One Card, and told students to download the CBORD GET app that would allow them to open parking gates through their phone, it would have easily rectified a lot of issues.
It’s time for UNC Transportation and Parking to reevaluate its current policies and response organization to student issues. The real cherry on top, however, would be if UNC would finally implement more visitor parking spaces for on-campus testing.
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