Campus News

Alternatives to Parking

by Dan Elliott and Chris Hedgpeth

It is a natural, almost involuntary response to complain about the parking situation on campus. During peak hours, there are too many cars and not enough spaces. Many people drive to school alone, increasing the inefficiency of the system. Others have called for the construction of a new parking garage which, while seemingly remedying the problem, would increase traffic congestion during its construction as well as well as the possibility of passing the expenditure back to you, the paying student.  

Fear not, pragmatic students: there are alternatives available to you. Here are some things you can do to avoid spending ten minutes vulturing for a spot or getting a ticket for making your own parking space.

The simplest solution to fixing the crowded parking problem is reducing the number of cars in the lots. Consider talking to classmates about carpooling. Chances are, there is at least one other student in your class that lives near you. If face-to-face dialogue is not really your thing, SMCC’s mobile app has a ride sharing function built into its social feed, allowing students to coordinate in both providing rides as well as making requests to fellow students for one.

 There are numerous Park and Ride locations around Portland and along 295 where you can park your car while you ride with someone else to SMCC. For those who are not familiar with the term, a Park and Ride is a designated parking lot where commuters are able to leave their vehicle and hop on a train, bus, or other public transit option. Park and Rides are also effective rally points for carpoolers as well, and many of the Metro BREEZ stops coincide with Park and Rides along 295. 

The Maine Turnpike Authority has a service called GO MAINE (gomaine.org) that facilitates carpooling. A cool feature of GO MAINE is their Emergency Ride Home program. Up to eight times a year, if you carpool at least three days a week and you have to leave school early, they’ll send a taxi to bring you home at no cost. The program even has a mobile app available which can allow you to better manage trip details and reward points tracking.

If you’ve got a little extra time to spare, consider taking the bus. The South Portland city bus and the Brunswick Explorer are both free to ride if you show your student ID with a current semester sticker. There’s also the Metro BREEZ that runs between Portland and Brunswick. It costs $3 to ride the full 27 miles, which is about how much it would cost to drive the same distance. The BREEZ runs 14 round trips between Portland and Brunswick each weekday.

One of the authors of this article, Chris, who lives in Brunswick and commutes to South Portland to tutor twice a week, took the bus to work last Wednesday instead of driving. Some insights from his trip: 

Make sure you’re at the right bus stop. 

If you want to take the BREEZ from Brunswick, Freeport, or Yarmouth, make sure you cross the street after being dropped off at the Congress St. and Forest Ave. stop. 

The South Portland bus to SMCC picks up on the side opposite Forest Ave, in front of Springer’s. 

On the way back, the BREEZ picks up on the same side of the street where the South Portland bus drops off.

The total cost of the trip (because Chris forgot his ID), was $9. With a student ID, the trip would have only cost $6. For a round trip from Brunswick to South Portland, you can’t beat that. According to the Greater Portland Metro’s website, the fare for the BREEZ will be increasing from $3 to $4 per one-way ride next February to coincide with their new automated fare program. Discounted fares are available, and the current price of a monthly pass is $90. That seems expensive, but it’s nothing compared to the cost of maintaining a car.

It takes about twice as long as it would to drive the same distance because of stops and schedule gaps, but that’s time you don’t have to spend driving. The BREEZ also has wifi, so you can use that extra time to catch up on homework or do some reading. If vehophobia (literally the fear of driving) is something that doesn’t affect you, perhaps environmental conservation is something that piques more of your interest.

Consider this: public transit accounts for the reduction of daily carbon emissions by 20 pounds per day, or more than 4,800 pounds per year.  A single Metro bus can eliminate the need for up to 36 cars on the road, and in turn reduce our carbon footprint on the planet. A cleaner Earth is a greener Earth, after all.

There may be an unvocalized stigma attached to alternative commuting options among students. Deep within the inner core of our being, we yearn for an overall sense of independence, such as the independent feeling we receive from driving ourselves to our destinations. But doing so may not be the most efficient or cost-effective way to go.

There is an incredible array of support programs in place for the student commuter.  Nearly all of the services mentioned in this article have mobile app support, allowing for better synchronicity with services and planning.  SMCC’s mobile application has a large student user base active in ridesharing discussions. Programs like GO MAINE even reward those actively seeking commuting alternatives.

The Greater Portland Metro bus services afford students greater mobility options not only around town, but outside destinations as well, making frequent stops along 295. The buses offer complementary services such as free WiFi and charging stations via usb ports—all free to SMCC students who present valid student identification.

However, if none of these options are of interest to you, and you are dead set on driving yourself to school, there is still one last thing you can do to help alleviate the stress of searching out a parking spot: arrive 30 to 45 minutes early, to allow yourself time to scour the Surfsite and Hildreth parking lots for those ever-elusive spots. With the onset of winter upon us, it is not a bad idea to plan ahead and keep these commuting options in mind, as we tread slush and snow towards the end of the semester. 

Categories: Campus News

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