Parking lots on Cal Poly's campus. Credit: Chloe Kern / Mustang News

Alex Ruther is an opinion columnist for Mustang News and journalism senior. The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of Mustang News.

When I transferred to Cal Poly in fall 2021 I had to familiarize myself with a new campus quickly on my own. Through the help of my new housemates, friends and googling Cal Poly’s campus layout, I was eventually able to quickly find different buildings and figure out how to use the Rec Center, but what I didn’t think I’d need to familiarize myself with was the Cal Poly parking lots. 

The permit parking system on campus made no sense to me as someone who didn’t know about the multiple parking permits and what Orange lots and H lots were. I soon found out that students who purchase parking permits can only park in parking lots that are specified to their permit, but that didn’t make sense to me. Students should be able to utilize all the parking lots on campus with a single permit.  

When I went online to purchase a parking permit, I was directed to join the waitlist for a parking permit, and shortly after joining the waitlist, I was awarded a permit to buy. When I purchased the permit offered by Cal Poly Transportation and Parking Services, I assumed that I would have access to park in different campus parking lots due to how expensive the permit was and the fact that it was the only permit option. 

I soon found out that wasn’t the case. After parking in the H-14 and H-16 parking lot for two quarters without any trouble, I was returning to my car after class when I found a parking ticket on my car. The ticket noted my K-1 permit wasn’t allowed in an orange lot, but it was the lot I had been parking in for months with no issues. 

I was extremely confused looking at the tedious $45 parking ticket because I barely knew the names and locations of different campus buildings, and now I needed to go home and figure out all parking lot names and locations were – which I still don’t quite know. 

Cal Poly Transportation and Parking Services offers three different permits for non-resident parking on campus which are Commuter Permit (formerly known as Orange Lot) which covers covers lots H1, H12, H14, H16, Grand Permit (formerly called Rover) which covers H1, H12, H14, and H16, and K-1 Permit which is only valid in the K-1 Lot. All three permits cost the same price of $158 per quarter. 

I tried parking in the K-1 lot a few times, but each time I couldn’t find anywhere to park. I was frustrated that I paid for a parking permit that didn’t guarantee me any parking.

I had no other choice than to pay for the meter parking or find street parking off-campus. I didn’t know what to do because I couldn’t park anywhere else with my permit. 

This past fall I wasn’t able to get onto the waitlist for a parking permit which left me in a panic because I wasn’t familiar with the off-campus parking situation, and I knew I was going to have to start the quarter without a permit. I tried being sneaky and parking in the two hour meter parking but ended up getting two parking tickets. 

This following quarter I decided to not even consider buying a parking permit and instead began parking on off-campus streets and in the two hour street parking which turned out to be easier, even though I have to show up 20 minutes early to drive in circles until I catch a car with their back-up lights on. 

I would consider buying a parking permit again if the permit costs less money, and I was able to park in more lots, but so far parking of- campus has proven to be easier and free.