Image: Jenna Eason
Growing pains: The state of Mercer’s on-campus parking
The student population of Mercer University has increased in total enrollment by about 300 students in the past five years. An increase that brings more people – and their cars to campus.
One of the biggest complaints about these increases has concerned parking.
Mercer Police said they have issued a total of 3,715 parking decals already this year on the Macon campus. The issued number being higher than the 2,927 total parking spaces on campus.
Kyle Sears, the director of media relations at Mercer University, said this is normal.
“On any university campus, you are going to have more decals than parking spaces because you never have everyone on campus at the same time,” Sears said in an email.
Based off of information from other Georgia schools, he’s not wrong.
The University of North Georgia (UNG) issued 16,699 parking permits on their 5 campuses with a total of 7,759 parking spaces, said Beverly Martin, the Parking and Transportation manager.
According to the University System of Georgia Data Warehouse, the UNG had a total enrollment of 18,219 in fall 2016 while Mercer had 8,623, according to Mercer’s Office of Institutional Effectiveness.
The University of West Georgia (UWG), with a total enrollment of 13,308 students in fall 2016, has issued 7,479 decals, including their Newnan campus. The university has 3,917 parking spaces, not including their Newnan campus, said Heather Topping, the Parking and Transportation Services departmental assistant.
Parking regulations are different at Middle Georgia State University (MGA). This year, they issued a total of 6,024 commuter and residential decals with 6,010 designated parking spaces. MGA allows two decals for their commuter students, but they have a registration fee of $10 for parking that is included each semester in their student fees, said Chief of Police Shawn Douglas.
According to their websites, UNG and UWG require their students to live on-campus until they have completed 30 credit hours unlike Mercer, which requires students to live on-campus for their first three years. MGA requires students to stay on their Macon campus until they have completed 30 credit hours, but on their Eastman and Cochran campuses, students must complete 60 credit hours before moving off, according to the MGA website.
Gary Collins, Mercer University’s chief of police, said parking is not the issue, but people actually complain about the convenience of parking.
“You will hear from different ones, ‘There’s no parking at Mercer.’ Well, that is not true,” Collins said. “We have ample parking at Mercer. It’s not next to the building you may want to go to, but we have ample parking.”
Collins said it takes about 10 to 15 minutes to walk from one side of campus to another.
Officer Gary Mills said the baseball lot is the best place to go if you cannot find parking on campus.
“If you wait until the last minute to try and find a parking place, it’s probably going to be very difficult, but you’ve always got this right here, this lot to park in,” Mills said. “This is a guaranteed place to park.”
Mercer Police has given around 700 tickets so far this year, according to the university.
Mills said the first thing he looks for when patrolling campus is people parked on a yellow curb and in handicap spaces.
“The biggest problem is people parking where they should not be parking,” Collins said.
Mills said if a curb is yellow, people are not allowed to park there even if there are white lines to indicate that a parking space is there. He said they have asked maintenance to cover any white lines that might indicate a parking spot on a yellow curb.
Mills said his biggest concern is safety and making sure the flow of traffic is not hindered.
On the bright side, he said it is good that they have to enforce parking regulations because it shows their presence on campus.
“It’s a positive when we’re out here … because other crimes could be hopefully deterred just with us being visible,” Mills said.
Collins said enforcing parking regulations consumes a major part of the department’s time, but he agrees with Mills in that he said it is good for the police to be visible in the community.
“At any college or university, the biggest complaint you will hear about almost constantly is parking,” Collins said. “I think it’s more or less a lack of convenient parking.”
Collins said the best way to avoid issues when parking on campus is to arrive early and know where each decal is allowed to park.
“When in doubt, don’t park there,” Mills said with a laugh.
Editor’s Note: This is the first article in a series that will explore Mercer’s changing campus.