University should be accountable for parking issues
Having lived in Shepherdstown for the last 26 years, we have seen Shepherd University grow from 2000 students to the current size of 4,500-plus students. Responsibility for the resulting huge increase in cars and the parking problems for the Town has never been addressed by the University. Shepherd should be the leader in solving this problem.
But because of its status as a state educational institution, Shepherd does not have to apply for or pay for building permits. If Shepherd followed either the Town’s or Jefferson County’s zoning laws, we would not have parking woes. But as it is, Shepherd has never been accountable for solving the problem.
Remember, we do not have parking problems in town when Shepherd is not in session!
Shepherd University and local politicians have proposed the following:
1) to build a 500-space parking deck on the East Campus in Shepherdstown.
This does not solve the problem of thousands of student cars coming to town each day looking for parking. Students will still park in free or cheap town spaces rather than pay for campus parking permits. In addition, traffic exiting the Campus from the parking deck will make congestion worse both in Town and on Route 480.
2) to develop education facilities on the East campus and housing on the west campus.
This doesnt work because it perpetuates the congestion created by student pedestrian/vehicular traffic on route 480, a major connection between West Virginia and Maryland.
How about some really forward-looking solutions from the University, which involve moving toward a pedestrian-based campus.
Here are some ideas:
1) Adopt a policy of promoting environmentally friendly means of getting to classes and that it is irresponsible for students to overwhelm the Town with their cars.
2) Make the cost of campus parking part of general overhead and roll it into fees charged to all students.
3) Provide adequate student and faculty parking on the West campus, in the range of 4,000 spaces. Parking on the east campus should be reserved for handicapped, short term permits and service vehicles.
4) Build an underpass at route 480 that can accommodate pedestrian, bike and an alternate power transport system.
5) Create a mobile bike system similar to the ones used in most major European cities that would promote bike transport. Its a simple pick up and drop off system that would work great for campus distances.
6) Work with Jefferson County to provide a link from the West Campus to Maddex Center. This would allow the traffic existing traffic light on Route 45 to modulate traffic flow exiting the Campus.
Town and gown, we can all do a better job of sharing and caring for this piece of almost heaven.