Transitioning from high school to college is … an experience. Almost everything, from how you’ll spend your time to who you are, will change. Even how you park. Really. “Parking on campus at college won’t be any different than parking at my high school,” said pre-SOAR Me. “I’m not worried about it, I’m just happy to have my car.” (Bless my heart, I really had no clue.)
In high school, I didn’t have to purchase my permit until the week before school started. It cost $50. The permit came with an assigned parking spot, just for me. It was 100 yards away from the classroom door. And this is how pre-SOAR Me figured it would be at UNC Charlotte.
Then I sat through a presentation from Parking and Transportation Services at SOAR. They talked about parking on campus at UNCC, emphasizing the importance of buying a permit early. They used words like, “parking is tight,” and “close-in lots and decks fill up early and fast.”
The majority of what I heard was forgotten within ten minutes, but I did remember to purchase my permit a month before classes were to start. I went to the online purchase site with Dad’s credit card. After announcing the price to him, and hearing him yell, “HOW MUCH?! For a PARKING PERMIT?!” and incoming-freshman Me responding with “But Daaaaaaaaad…” for a full five minutes because I thought I needed my car on campus and was willing to whine to get it there. So I ordered my permit at about six times the price of what I’d paid for one in high school. Once over the hurdle of my dad, I thought the worst part about parking on campus was over (because I was still without a clue).
That August, I moved into Moore Hall. My blue R permit had a bar code and number but I quickly realized there were hundreds and hundreds of 8x20’ rectangles surrounded by white lines, none with numbers, none assigned specifically for Me. This was another unsettling change from high school parking; I wasn’t sure how parking would work without everyone having a guaranteed spot. I also learned that I could only park in R Lots. Fortunately, I understood this early and did not make the ridiculous mistake of some of my peers who attempted to drive from the highrises to class. Please allow Me to keep You from learning this lesson the hard way. Leave your car in the R Lot near your residence hall. Don’t even think about driving to class.
I wish I had been better prepared to understand what’s to be expected when parking on an urban campus of 25,000 + students. But I figured it out and by the time I was a senior, I came to understand why parking is the way it is. So please, if you plan to bring a car on campus, please allow Me to share with you the following tips and truths.
First and foremost, buy your permit EARLY.
I cannot stress this point enough. You can order early, and if you order by Aug. 6, Parking and Transportation Services will mail the permit to you. As someone who was a UNC Charlotte student for five years – and who actually worked handing out permits the first week of classes – older-wiser Me can attest that if you wait until classes begin to purchase your permit, you will be standing in line. A long, long, hour-or-two-of-miserably-inching-forward line. You’re already going to be running around like crazy making sure you have everything, figuring out which buildings your classes are in, and trying to get to class on time. The last thing you want the stress of long wait wait, then having to go back to your car (which you had to pay to park in a Visitor parking area because those without permits are not allowed to park in anywhere else), display your permit, relocate to a lot in which your permit allows you to park, then walk back to get to another class. And this will all take place in August, when it’s likely to be 95 degrees and oppressively humid.
If you must wait for a financial aid refund or otherwise won’t have the money to purchase a permit, you may buy a temporary day pass from Parking Services for $6.00 per day. This is cheaper than having to park and pay in a Visitors deck or at a meter.
Where you should park
This depends on whether you are a resident or a commuter. Students assigned to the residence halls have parking decks and/or lots in the vicinity of the residences. R permits are also allowed in “orange” coded areas.
Campus has many lots and decks for commuters but most commuters desire to park in places closest to the academic core: East Deck 2 and 3, West Deck, Union Deck, and parking lots 19 (by the Union), 5 (across from East Deck 2), and 7 (near Cone Deck). These fill up early and quickly (as I was told when I went to SOAR and now I’m passing that unbending truth to you). By 9:15 AM, those areas turn into the worst game of musical chairs as cars circle repeatedly, waiting for a spot to possibly come open and all the while slowing down traffic in and out of the decks. At peak times it can take 30-45 minutes for a spot to come open.
But there are plenty of other areas where Commuters may park like Lots 6 (off Cameron Blvd. near John Kirk Rd.), North Deck, South Village Deck, and CRI Deck. These areas always have open spaces and they’re all on the campus shuttle line. Save yourself time and hassle – try parking in one of these lower-use places for two days and you’ll see for yourself.
When I become a commuter student, upperclassman Me would actually try to park in East and West Decks a few minutes before an 11:00 AM class. That rarely ended well regardless of my hopes for luck and magic.
Then (I actually got a clue) and tried parking farther out. Just like that, parking got much easier! There were plenty of parking spaces out there! Sometimes I walked into to class and sometimes I took the shuttle. Even when I was running a little late, I knew how long it would take me to get from where I parked to my class via foot or shuttle. I did not add further delay and frustration to my tardiness by circling full decks and cursing. Best of all, I no longer had anxiety about being late.
Parking areas closest to academic buildings, like East Deck 2, are often filled to capacity by 9:15 am.
They’re expensive. My dad was jolted by the price. It does seem like a lot of money for a place to leave your car. But the reason is that parking is self-funded. No state funding or tuition dollars are used to build and maintain parking facilities. Our campus is new and growing and the University has to pay for building the parking decks needed to accommodate those who use them which includes students, faculty, staff. Everyone with a regular, full-time permit pays the same. Almost all permit fees go toward design and construction of new parking decks, maintenance and debt service (paying back construction bonds) of existing decks/lots, with a small percentage going toward traffic control staffing and support of the CATS Campus Shuttle.
A few final notes
- To purchase a parking permit, you need a 49er ID card, vehicle registration, driver’s license, and proof of insurance.
- Remember, permits are always required to park on campus. Buy your permit EARLY, online.
- Park considerately, please. We all hate the guy who parks crooked and hogs up two spots. Don't be that guy.
So there you have it. In a few short months, first-year You will be starting college. It’s an exciting and enjoyable time; don’t let new parking realities bring you down. Accept and adapt!
Class of 2013
While an undergraduate at UNC Charlotte, Tori was the marketing communications intern for Auxiliary Services, a job which included presenting information about meal plans and parking to incoming students at SOAR.