Tales from the Lots: The Quest for Parking at Mason’s Fairfax Campus

Posted: July 27, 2004 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

Tales from the Lots: The Quest for Parking at Mason’s Fairfax Campus

By Christopher Anzalone

It is one of the campus melodramas that is played out day in and day out during the fall and spring semesters when George Mason is in full swing: the quest to find a decent parking space, one that is reasonably close to the building one is attempting to reach in a timely fashion. Some have a difficult time, others do not, and many have come to realize that certain things have to be done if one hopes to get a good parking space amidst the bustling Fairfax Campus.

“To get a good space, one has to get to campus early in the morning,” says Sheryl Friedley, Communication, echoing advice heard from many among the faculty, staff, and student bodies regarding parking.

“I find that given scheduling patterns, on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays finding parking is definitely easier than on Tuesdays and Thursdays, which are particular nightmares after 10:30 a.m.,” says Sumaiya Hamdani, assistant professor of history.

Some prefer to put a brighter face on the situation. “When one can find a slot in only the “Z lot,” one remembers that cardiologists say it’s better to walk to the office and that tribulations are blessings in disguise,” says Roger Lathbury, a professor of English.

“In terms of finding a space, I have had problems only a few times. However, that is because I make sure I have at least half an hour to drive around if necessary, which I usually have to do once or twice,” says Aman Agah, an English major.

“Parking overall is adequate. Students may have to search for parking during the beginning of the semester, but it alleviates as time progresses. A little searching doesn’t harm anybody,” says Nicholas Zinzer, a political science and audio and visual technology major. Zinzer also says that the new parking deck currently under construction will do much to improve parking on the Fairfax Campus. At the same time, however, his fellow student Agah says, “I am disappointed that a new deck is being built, taking away spots.”

Mention parking, and everyone has a pet complaint. “Since I am now able to receive the “senior” parking rate, I am, perhaps, less irritated at having to pay a parking fee,” says John Barclay Burns, associate professor of religious studies. “On the other hand, friends and colleagues at other institutions find it odd that George Mason faculty have to pay for parking.” At the same time, Professor Lathbury notes, “I think that $160 per annum is a lot for parking on campus, but I’m told at other comparable schools fees are higher.” In fact, among Virginia colleges and universities, George Mason’s parking rate for faculty and staff is generally in the median, according to a study conducted by the Faculty Senate. For example, at the College of William and Mary, staff and affiliate employee parking is $250 per year and decals are tied to specific lots. At Virginia Tech, full-time faculty and staff may purchase two-year parking passes for $152, with single-year passes available for $76.

The distribution of parking spaces is also a hot topic in the Mason community. “I rarely have a problem finding a parking space, but I do see students and people without stickers parking in the designated faculty lots—there seems little enforcement,” says Professor Burns.

“I believe the parking situation leaves a lot to be desired. It appears that too many of the spaces are reserved for faculty and staff,” says Vanessa LaFaso, a communication major. “This includes the parking deck at certain hours—mainly afternoon class times—which I find particularly distressing since I rarely purchase a permit each semester. For students who may not spend enough time on campus to deem a permit worthwhile, the parking deck is the only option other than metered spaces.” LaFaso does note that the parking rates for the deck are “extremely fair.”

Some members of the George Mason community forgo the whole parking experience. “I walk to campus,” says David Carol, manager of the On CUE Project. “During the school year, the parking lots are packed and the time it takes for me to walk here, which is about 15 minutes, is about the same amount of time it would take me to drive and park.”

While the rule on the Fairfax Campus seems to be “one person, one car,” there are other options available in addition to walking, such as carpooling or using public transportation. Student Zinzer suggests that “the CUE bus should be promoted for students in close proximity to the campus.”

There is some parking relief on the horizon. Parking Lot J will be expanded this summer, adding 170 spaces. And the new 2,500-square-foot Sandy Creek Parking Deck will add 200 visitor spots and 1,000 permit spaces within the next year. With the beginning of the new academic year, George Mason’s University Services will resume shuttle bus service between the Fairfax and Prince William Campuses on Aug. 30. The free service will be available from 7 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. weekdays.

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