Butler University issued 3,997 parking permits to faculty, staff and students this year, but there only are 2,585 spots designated for them on campus, leaving 1,412 permit-holding drivers out of luck.
Despite adjustments this year to make the most of the university’s parking capacity, like signing a contract with a car-sharing company and reclassifying a stretch of road that was underutilized last year, people are left to wonder: where will we park?
“This number is scary if you don’t factor in side streets,” Butler Police Chief Ben Hunter said. “Do we have a parking problem now? No. We have parking concerns.”
There are 3,222 parking spots for the entire Butler community, not including Greek spots on their private lots, or on side streets like 44th Street, 49th Street and Boulevard Place, which Hunter said could add around 200 spots total in theory — if each driver is a skilled parallel parker and takes only 12 feet to get the job done.
Why the 1,412-official spot discrepancy?
The short answer is that on any given day, there are times when people with permits aren’t on campus, said parking committee member and professor Marvin Recht, an executive-in-residence in the College of Business, so having some overlap is expected.
“It’s probably safe to assume we’re running out of creative options,” Hunter said. “I’m confident that if we continue to grow, we will have parking problems.”
President Jim Danko told The Butler Collegian in May that he was mindful of the concerns.
“We have to really start working on how we address some of those problems,” Danko said.
No Close Public Transit
There was a former IndyGo bus route that went through and stopped at Butler, which faculty said alleviated some of the capacity problem, but it was removed in 2004 because of lack of ridership.
“It was a pretty unproductive route,” IndyGo director of business development Stephanie Cross said. It isn’t a priority for the stop to return, even in the organization’s long-term plans to increase bus routes in the city, Cross said.
There only were 8,987 rides for the Butler route in its last month of service in 2004, Cross said, compared to routes off campus with as many as 38,000 riders per month.
With IndyGo planning to request that the City-County Council cover $6.4 million in operating expenses Sept. 19, plans to expand service routes don’t seem imminent.
Routes can’t increase unless IndyGo has the funding, and this year, IndyGo’s hope is to just cover their operating budget, Cross said.
Members of the parking committee, which meets Sept. 9, have stopped short of saying freshmen can’t bring cars to campus, but there is resistance from constituent groups who argue the lack of accessible public transportation, especially in inclement weather, would hinder students without cars.
Making a recommendation to forbid freshmen from bringing cars on campus could come at the expense of their participation in cultural events, service projects or internships in the city, said Aimée Rust-Scheuermann, director of admission and parking committee member.
Rust-Scheuermann said Butler needs easy access to all its resources to further the professional and academic development of its students, so limiting a student group without adequate public transit options is a concern.
“Indianapolis really serves as a living laboratory,” Rust-Scheuermann said. “How do they engage in the Indianapolis community if they aren’t able to find transportation to and from an event?”
Tight Squeeze During Events
Hunter said the limited capacity becomes frustrating during special events when there are multiple events on campus, something that will be a challenge this October when Family Weekend coincides with a football game, basketball game and run going through campus.
“We’re really jockeying for parking spaces and the capacity is severely reduced,” Hunter said.
Last year to mitigate the problem, the university occasionally contracted with the Christian Theological Seminary during special events and shuttled visitors up to Hinkle Fieldhouse from their parking lot, which seemed to work, said Hunter.
This is the second full academic year that the university’s parking capacity has been divided into zones, designated areas that require people who park to have a specific pass, which the university said created 72 additional parking spaces last year.
This year, the second block of Sunset Avenue on the west curb has been rezoned from “A” permits, or faculty, staff, emeritus and affiliate parking, to “C” permits, or student commuter parking.
Hunter said the change was a deliberate move to add more commuter spaces to mitigate those students’ concerns about not having parking spots closer to main campus buildings.
The first block of Sunset Avenue also may be rezoned next fall depending on if the opening of the Howard L. Schrott Center for the Performing and Visual Arts causes a capacity issue.
Overall, Hunter said he’s received far more compliments than complaints on the decision to designate zones for the parking lots and streets.
“It has been working out way better than my initial expectations,” he said. “We knew going into it that it’d be trial and error.”
Butler junior Robert Davis hasn’t sent Hunter a compliment. He said he gets confused where he can park when he’s trying to drive from his Apartment Village residence to study at the library or go to class.
Butler sophomore Loor Alshawa, an officer of the Off-Campus Student Organization, said commuters this year already are feeling crunched to find a spot.
She said there were no spaces available in the commuter lot or Hinkle Fieldhouse when she came to campus last week, and she ended up getting to her class 10 minutes later than she normally would have.
Hunter said it harms capacity when students want to drive their car from their dorm to the library or class and park in the wrong zone.
“It’s a vicious cycle,” he said.