Written by Laurie Melchionne, Editor in Chief
The anxiety of swerving onto campus with only minutes to spare before class–every Stockton commuter has experienced it. After zooming down the parkway, darting through lanes and ignoring the blaring horns of fellow crusty-eyed motorists, you’ve made it on campus in half the time it would have taken had your alarm woken you on time. But all the spots are full. You have to take the shuttle from distant Lot 8. You arrive at your first class doing the walk of shame, 20 minutes late.
All of this changed when COVID-19 emptied classrooms in the fall of 2020, as well as the expectation for hectic parking situations. For commuters who had to drive to campus like freshman Elizabeth Myers, this wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.
“My sister was a commuter at Stockton, too, and she mentioned how crazy on-campus parking used to be,” said Myers. “So when it was time for me to commute to an on-campus class that I had in the evening, I got to campus an hour early just to find that the parking lot was mostly empty. Parking was way easier than I initially expected it to be.”
Rhianon Lepree, Director of the Office of Real Estate, explained the major aspects in which COVID has changed parking at Stockton.
“Residential students would typically have to park out in Lots 8 and 9, but because we have such an abundance of parking spaces, we let them park in Lot 7 which is normally a commuter lot,” explained Lepree. Because residential students are now allowed to park in commuter lots, Parking and Transportation has eliminated a shuttle route since no one was parking at Lots 8 and 9.
The Atlantic City campus has also felt major changes. Before the pandemic, four shuttles departed for Galloway at 7:30 each day; now there is only one. With many Atlantic City residents driving to Galloway, shuttles in the city run at 20% capacity.
“Usually we don’t allow AC students to bring their cars,” said Lepree. “We have shuttles we encourage them to use, but because of COVID and health concerns, we don’t want to force people to use shuttles if they don’t have to.”
During the 2019-2020 academic year, of students who had registered for parking there were 6,231 commuters and 2,477 residents. Now, those numbers have dropped to 5,689 commuters and 1,668 residents.
The Campus Police Blotter, published each week in The Argo, also reflects Stockton’s empty parking lots. In the first week of this semester between January 25 and January 28, there were zero parking or motor-vehicle related incidents.
“I cannot think of any major complaints,” Lepree said when discussing parking issues received by her department, which works hand in hand with Campus PD. Overall, phone calls that involve motor vehicle accidents, lockouts, complaints, etc, have drastically decreased since the spring 2020 semester. Parking enforcement patrolmen are also operating at a greatly reduced capacity.
Despite the lack of activity at Stockton’s Department of Parking and Transportation, students and faculty alike recognize the benefits. “From a student, employee, commuter perspective, it’s made their life easier,” said Lepree, “because there’s more virtual classes, less students on campus, and more available parking.”
On Stockton’s website, Parking and Transportation explains in writing that “The registration of a vehicle does not guarantee that a parking space convenient for the individual will be provided.” In other words, there is plenty of parking at Stockton, just not where people want it to be. So if anything good has come of the pandemic, it is that life as a Stockton commuter has been much, much easier.
However, with operations projected to return to normal come the fall of 2021, this is bound to change. “You will find a spot,” added Lepree, “but it might not be the front door spot that you have been used to.”