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SBU makes changes to commuter parking plans

The Lot 40 parking lot in South Campus, formerly known as South P. The lot is one of the few free remaining spots for commuters on campus. KAYLA GOMEZ MOLANO/THE STATESMAN

On Sept. 8, Stony Brook University officially removed the waitlist to purchase Commuter Premium Permits for commuter students looking to park on Stony Brook’s main campus. 

According to Kendra Violet, executive director for Mobility and Parking Services (MAPS) at Stony Brook, this was done in response to commuter students without Commuter Premium Permits not being allowed to park in Lots 2, 3, 5 and 6a — the parking lots closest to the Stony Brook train station — despite the abundance of parking spaces. 

“At this point, we have discontinued the waitlist and anyone interested in purchasing a premium permit can go directly to the Parking Services office to make that purchase,” Violet said. “We will continue to have them available until we see occupancy hit our maximum allowable range.”

This semester, commuter students who wish to park their vehicles in Lots 2, 3, 5 and 6a are required to purchase a Commuter Premium Permit for $112.50. This came as a shock to many students because they were previously permitted free parking with a Commuter Standard Permit in these areas. 

Students with a Commuter Standard Permit instead of a Commuter Premium Permit now must park in Lot 40, also known as the South P Lot, which is located at the south end of Stony Brook’s main campus. From there, the students must take a bus to arrive at the core campus where most buildings are located.

Having two separate commuter parking plans has proven to be controversial. Sean Pinto, a sophomore physics major and commuter student, understands the intention behind Commuter Premium Permits but dislikes how they were implemented. 

“I think the idea sort of makes sense because it was pretty hectic last semester,” Pinto said. “However, I do think they made too many premium passes and there’s not enough students with premium.” 

Currently, Pinto does not have a Commuter Premium Permit. He was unable to obtain one after the waitlist opened on July 15 because it contained over a thousand people. 

“I’ll be driving to campus and almost all the LIRR parking spots are empty,” he added. 

Pinto suggested that students without a Commuter Premium Permit should be allowed to park in the unused spots. However, according to Violet, there are “no plans to open any core commuter lots for free commuter parking.” Instead, MAPS plans to give out enough Premium Permits to fill these empty spots. 

Other commuter students like the standard permit. 

“Honestly it’s not much of a hassle,” Ronald Ruiz, a junior math major, said. “It’s kind of faster because the bus takes you right to the Wang Center.” Ruiz used to park near the Stony Brook train station, but does not mind the change. 

According to Stony Brook’s transit map, the Express East shuttle bus takes students from Lot 40 to East Side Dining, which is right across from the Charles B. Wang Center.

Students first received notice about the implementation of premium permits via an email from Violet on July 1. It stated that continuing commuter students would be able to place themselves on a waitlist in early July to receive a premium permit, and on July 15, the waitlist opened up to new commuter students.

In an email correspondence with The Statesman, Violet said the change was made due to student feedback from the previous academic year. Violet’s email states that these changes were made due to complaints about a lack of parking, difficulty finding spaces and empty parking spots that couldn’t be used.

Last academic year, Lots 2, 3, 5 and 6a filled quickly. Lot 6b, located right next to Lot 6a, was for faculty and staff only. Students unable to find a parking spot in these areas would drive around campus in hopes of finding one, which raised concerns about traffic flow and pedestrian safety.

According to Violet, MAPS attempted to alleviate these concerns by freeing up space in faculty and staff parking lots, since only around half of the available spaces were taken on a daily basis. 

“It was not enough for all commuter students to park in the core campus lots,” Violet’s email stated.  

While this problem persisted, Lot 40, the biggest commuter parking lot on the main campus, was largely unused. 

“There were approximately 1,200 commuter spaces available during peak times in Lot 40, but that wasn’t where students wanted to park,” Violet said.

In response to this, MAPS introduced two separate commuter permits to ensure that students park on campus instead of driving around in search of a parking spot. 

“We are able to ensure that those with a premium permit have a space in the core and that students with the standard commuter permit save time by going directly to Lot 40 to park,” Violet added. 

Amidst concerns about the new parking system, Violet noted that MAPS will be taking suggestions on how to improve parking and transit at Stony Brook University. 

“This Fall, we will be reconvening an advisory group that will provide feedback and suggestions for MAPS services. This group will include representation from students, faculty and staff,” Violet said.

It is currently unknown when this group will reconvene or what percentage of students, faculty and staff will represent the group.

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