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Students say parking still big problem at Clark College

School officials argue there are spots within easy walking distance

By , Columbian Education Reporter
Published: January 5, 2015, 4:00pm
3 Photos
Drivers circle around a parking lot looking for available spaces at Clark College on Monday, the first day of winter quarter.
Drivers circle around a parking lot looking for available spaces at Clark College on Monday, the first day of winter quarter. Photo Gallery

Clark College enrollment

Winter quarter

o Total students: 12,013.

o Running Start: 1,971.

o International: 171.

o Worker retraining: 193.

Parking at Clark

o Total parking spaces: About 2,800.

o Faculty/staff reserved spaces: 327.

o Metered spaces: 50.

Parking updates

o Yellow lot 1 west of Fort Vancouver Way reopened Monday after underground infrastructure updates and restriping. It previously had 229 spaces, but now has 360 spaces.

o Silver and Purple lots west of Fort Vancouver Way are a five- to seven-minute walk to campus, but usually are not full.

Monday was a typical first day of the quarter at Clark College. As a car vacated a parking space, a waiting car zipped into the space before another driver could grab it. Motorists lined up for precious parking spots in the popular two green lots north of Gaiser Hall.

Frankie Stone, 19, of Battle Ground said she’d driven around the northern parking lots more than four times before finding a vacant space. She carpooled with Emily Osborn, 20, also from Battle Ground. As she was talking, a car stopped, the driver rolled down her window and asked if she was leaving her space. Stone shook her head, closed her car door and headed for her class.

The driver of the other car continued her search.

The parking lot shuffle on Monday highlighted an ongoing problem on campus. Although some improvements have been made, some students still voiced their frustration with a lack of convenient parking, saying it makes it harder to get to class on time.

Clark College enrollment

Winter quarter

o Total students: 12,013.

o Running Start: 1,971.

o International: 171.

o Worker retraining: 193.

Parking at Clark

o Total parking spaces: About 2,800.

o Faculty/staff reserved spaces: 327.

o Metered spaces: 50.

Parking updates

o Yellow lot 1 west of Fort Vancouver Way reopened Monday after underground infrastructure updates and restriping. It previously had 229 spaces, but now has 360 spaces.

o Silver and Purple lots west of Fort Vancouver Way are a five- to seven-minute walk to campus, but usually are not full.

School officials point out, however, that there are lots with available parking spaces about a five- to seven-minute walk from the college.

After circling the parking lots on campus, Amber Tipton gave up and began searching for a place to park on the street in the neighborhood east of the college.

“It’s even hard to find a parking space in the neighborhoods,” said Tipton, a 16-year-old Running Start student. “Last quarter I was 30 minutes late for class on my first day because I couldn’t find a parking spot.”

Eventually, Tipton found a spot on the street not too far from her classes at Joan Stout Hall.

Even the metered spaces were prime real estate Monday morning. Eboni Spruill, 31, of Vancouver, said she spent five minutes looking for a parking space before she found a metered spot.

“Morning is always crammed, but if you’re willing to pay and won’t be long, the meter is good,” Spruill said.

Spaces added

Clark’s electronic reader board on Fort Vancouver Way informed students about parking updates. During the fall quarter, Yellow Lot 1 west of Fort Vancouver Way closed. Monday it reopened after underground infrastructure improvements and restriping. Now the lot has 360 parking spaces — 131 more than it had before the improvements were made.

Yellow lot 2 west of Fort Vancouver Way also closed fall quarter. It’s the site for the new science, technology, engineering and math building. When the building opens in spring 2016, an additional 142 parking spaces will be added.

The city of Vancouver requires one parking spot for every three classroom seats, said Bob Williamson, vice president of administrative services at Clark College. According to that ratio, the college has sufficient parking, he said.

Some frustrated students have asked whether a parking structure will ever be built at Clark College. The short answer is no.

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State money cannot be used to build parking structures. It would be up to the foundation to raise money to build a structure, and a parking structure would be a hard sell for donors.

In addition, Clark College is part of the Central Park neighborhood, and the neighborhood’s master plan discourages a parking structure, Williamson said.

Sufficient parking

“I suspect there will always be complaints about parking. It’s very difficult to satisfy the customer completely,” said Williamson. “What we have at Clark is a walking problem, not necessarily a parking problem. While parking can indeed be a challenge, if students would avail themselves to all the spaces available — the purple lot and silver lots west of Fort Vancouver Way — there would be plenty of parking.”

Those lots remain fairly empty throughout the day, he said.

“If I were a student pressed for time, I’d park in the Silver lot and walk five to seven minutes to campus rather than drive around looking for closer parking,” Williamson said.

Williamson said a convenient and inexpensive option for Clark students is to purchase a C-Tran Back Pass, which costs $10 a quarter. C-Tran has two bus stops at Fort Vancouver Way.

“For students, the Back Pass is an all-zone pass for all their commuting needs, not just to and from Clark College,” Williamson said. “It’s a pretty good deal.”

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