Agricultural science senior Elida Moore is five minutes late to class as she drives onto campus.
Moore isn’t worried though. She’ll simply park in the Grand Avenue parking structure by the Christopher Cohan Performing Arts Center (PAC) and speedwalk the short distance to class.
There’s just one problem: today Cal Poly University Police Department (UPD) has closed off the parking structure to people with permits and are using the structure as paid event parking. The predicament is a familiar one to Moore, who chooses to drive across campus to the parking lots near Campus Market instead of paying the fee to park by the PAC.
The situation is inconvenient for students, faculty and staff who have their routines disrupted, Moore said, but according to UPD associate director Cindy Campbell, it’s a necessary part of controlling traffic flow on campus when visitors show up in droves.
Often, event visitors are locals or people from out of town who are unfamiliar with campus, Campbell said.
When event-specific parking is not readily available, visitor traffic has an impact on all of campus, Campbell said.
“When it happens, it really is a ripple effect,” Campbell said.
So UPD Parking Services chooses to funnel these visitors in a parking area near Cal Poly’s Grand Avenue entrance, thus avoiding the threat of dozens of cars driving lost around North Perimeter Road.
“We try very hard to capture everyone in one specific zone or area so that we can limit the impact to the rest of the campus as well,” Campbell said.
And capturing these visitors is not a simple question of letting them park in one place, Campbell said. UPD must take into account factors such as time of day, day of the week, number of attendees and location of the event when organizing parking, Campbell said.
Though the Grand Avenue parking structure is the parking area most frequently used as event parking, the planning process takes into account the location of the on-campus event. The Grand Avenue structure is used for events at the PAC, the Recreation Center or the University Union (UU), Campbell said.
For events on the north side of campus, UPD will encourage visitors to enter by Foothill Boulevard or Highland Drive, then direct them to reserved parking near Campus Market, Campbell said.
The parking does benefit event visitors, but is also meant to help students by keeping traffic within campus down, Campbell said.
“It isn’t intended to be a slight to our student population or others,” Campbell said.
Moore, who grew up in San Luis Obispo County, can see the benefits of this parking planning, she said. Moore visited Cal Poly for events with her grandparents, who found the close parking to be convenient, and saved them walking distance, Moore said.
“When I was younger, it would be totally awesome because you’re closer to where you need to be,” Moore said.
As a Cal Poly student now, though, Moore finds event parking inconvenient at times, she said.
This is especially true when Moore has parked in the Grand Avenue structure in the morning and tries to leave after an event has started, she said.
“The traffic’s really crazy getting out,” Moore said.
Still, not all Cal Poly students are frustrated with UPD’s handling of event parking. For biological sciences senior Kristy Mayberry, parking all depends on who is working at the entrance to the structure, she said.
Mayberry has used the parking structure even when it is reserved for events, she said.
“I just said that I was coming here to go to class,” Mayberry said. “We had a permit already and they just let us park there.”