It is another normal day in the CSU parking lots, and cars and trucks are cruising for open spaces like sharks at a feeding frenzy.
Some follow closely on the heels of pedestrians like vultures after a dying man, hoping to find someone who is leaving. Some head off campus, defeated, tail between their legs, to park in residential areas and walk to class.
“I leave 25 minutes before class so I can park at my friend’s house and walk to class,” said Kristin Phillips, a sophomore majoring in marketing.
But it hasn’t always been this way.
It may be hard for students who have recently arrived in Fort Collins to imagine, but not too long ago, the city we know today would hardly be recognizable.
In fact, there was a time when a horse and buggy driven over dirt roads was the only way to reach the scattered buildings of Colorado A&M that dotted the surrounding farmland.
It was not until the early 1970’s that the first faculty parking lot was built. The first student lot was built a few years later.
When the first lot was built, parking was not an issue, says Kay Rios, former parking director at CSU. “Permits were cheap and you could always find a place,” she said.
Most students didn’t have cars at that time anyway. “There was a very different kind of freshman student back then,” Rios says. “They were 17, 18-year-olds whose life was centered around campus,” because the small town of Fort Collins did not have much to offer.
Another factor limiting cars during the mid-1970s was the gasoline shortage. High prices and long lines at the pumps kept many students from driving.
When the shortage was over, students began driving more, but it wasn’t until the mid-1980s that parking started to become an issue and CSU started adding more lots.
“In the ’90s we really started seeing more of a crunch,” says Rios. “In the past 10 years, parking has become a real issue.”
Parking services has tried many options throughout the years to ease the parking situation. They started promoting alternative modes of transportation such as biking, walking, and buses during the 1970s.
“During the shortage, with people waiting in lines for gas, is when we sold it (alternative transportation) because people couldn’t get gas,” Rios said. “It’s all cyclical. Now it’s about having clean air and a clean environment.”
“Students have always been better at using alternative transportation,” Rios continued. “It seems that faculty and staff are the hardest to get out of their cars.”
Other solutions to the parking problems include putting in new bike lanes and blocking off the core of the campus to allow only pedestrian traffic.
“We looked at parking as a planning tool,” Rios says. “If you’re going to plan for growth, you have to include parking in that plan.”
Some students have planned alternative methods into their day.
“I just gave up on trying to park this year and I started riding my bike,” said Adam Renken, a senior finance major.
Without proper planning, Fort Collins could wind up with problems like Boulder and Greeley. When neighborhoods surrounding the University of Colorado in Boulder went to a permit system so that only residents could park on the streets, it forced all the students who had been parking in the neighborhoods back onto campus. CU had to quickly build new parking garages. The same situation is happening in Greeley at the University of Northern Colorado, where prices for parking permits are rising steeply to pay for the new lots.
The main issue regarding parking at CSU, says Rios, is time management. “People are always concerned that they can’t run to campus in a few minutes, get in and do their business and get out. People forget they have to plan.”