By Andrew Bugel, Tyler Trill
If you ever get the chance to take a stroll throughout downtown Kent, it’s almost a given you can hear a steady rush of vehicles. Some of those vehicles are carrying people to their jobs downtown. Some are carrying students on their way to class just a mile or less up Main Street to Kent State University. Whatever the case may be, it is safe to assume that there is a lot of activity in the city of Kent on any given day.
The life of a student at any given college is busy. Students at Kent State University are no exception. According to suburbanstats.org, the population in the city of Kent for 2014-2015 was approximately 28, 904. That does not include the thousands of students commuting to class from surrounding cities every single day. Many students run late to class. Some don’t want to park in their designated parking spots and that can cause many problems.
The question comes down a couple of thing; how much of a problem is parking in Kent and what is being done about it?
Residents Have A Say
Bridget Susel is the Community Development Director in the city of Kent. Susel says the city puts forth their best effort with handling parking violations while working to handle the needs of not only the students but the residents in the city. Susel says a common trend that the city usually has to deal with involving parking is students parking on residential streets that provide them with quicker access to their classrooms.
“We see a problem with students parking on residential streets because it may be closer to their classrooms,” Susel said. “We get complaints from residents about that a lot and one of the things they do is file a petition. Petitions from residents will determine whether or not we will put particular parking regulations into account.”
Susel says it really comes down to the citizens as to whether or not council will potentially put parking restrictions in place.
“For us to put a restriction or ban into effect, 70 percent of the residents on the street need to be on board with the petition and then the petition can be presented to council for consideration of a change,” Susel said.
“We had a petition on High Street to be used for two-hour parking only,” Susel said. “Residents were having a problem with students parking on the street and then going to class. High Street is a residential street. Students would park there and leave their cars there all night. Beryl Street was originally two-hour parking and residents wanted to change that to all-day parking, so we really had two different scenarios by each group of residents.”
Police Working to Enforce Parking Laws
There are a total of 49 parking violation ordinances in the city of Kent. Ticket fines range from $15 for abusing two-hour limits of parking to $250 for parking in a handicapped spot.
According to Dana Frazier, who serves as a compliance officer in the city of Kent, the job of the police department is not to fine students as much money as they can, but to just keep the streets safer and daily operations moving smoothly.
“We’ll get parents that call us all the time because they got a letter in the mail about their son or daughter accumulating hundreds of dollars in parking fines,” Frazier said. “As a police department, we aren’t out to get any money from anyone but students need to abide by the rules and we have to enforce them. It is our job.”
Frazier says that many students attending Kent State University, like many other colleges across the county, come in from all over the country. Not every state has the same parking rules and sometimes that can cause confusion.
“Students come from anywhere to go to school here,” Frazier said. “For instance, we have students attending Kent State University that grew up in Pennsylvania. In Pennsylvania, you can park in any direction on any street. In Ohio, you can’t do that. So we deal with that a lot and in most cases, we will void the ticket for students who don’t know but they need to learn. There are rules in place for a reason.”
Frazier also says another problem he seems is that many students don’t want to get their permits.
“The city is just getting overloaded with students,” Frazier said. “People will park wherever they want too. If they have a friend or know someone close to campus, they will park at their house, either in the driveway or in the yard. Sometimes, it tears up the yard, but it is what we have to deal with.”
Frazier says the police department and the city is working hard at making parking more easily accessible.
“Obviously, the school wants to add more lots and has added some when they put new buildings up,” Frazier said. “We have added more parking meters downtown, which really has helped probably the most. Downtown gets pretty congested to and the campus has been expanding into downtown over the last few years. The parking meters basically force people to come and go in a quick fashion and it keeps everything under control for the most part.”
The Problem Will Never Fully Dissipate
Susel compliments the police department and says that council has done a good job of taking citizen petitions into consideration.
“Our police officers do a great job of enforcing parking laws,” Susel said. “They can’t be there all day, every day to catch students parking where they aren’t supposed to be but they do a good job. The city is going to continue working with residents to make sure parking isn’t being abused and we have done well. Every street is different and it really depends on what the ordinances are for those streets, but we really don’t receive too many complaints. We just have to make sure we continue to do our job and the police department continues to do theirs.”