SHEPHERDSTOWN — With plans for a garage at Shepherd University on hold, school officials are considering other solutions to discourage students from parking in town and ease parking woes for residents, business owners and visitors.
John Sherwood, the former Board of Governors chairman heading a committee in charge of the university’s long-term building plan, said he believes the campus has enough parking spaces to accommodate all 3,000 daily commuter students. The students, however, don’t like having to walk from the large parking lots on West Campus to the East Campus where most of their classes are held.
“I’d like to see a way to minimize the parking we’re putting into downtown Shepherdstown,” Sherwood said.
University general counsel Alan Perdue said administrators investigated trying to prohibit students from parking in town, but abandoned that plan for reasons he cannot disclose.
“The university has concluded that we should not at the current time try to enforce through our policies any punitive sanctions against students in regards to what they do with their private automobiles on land that is not owned by the university,” he said. “We’re looking at a variety of things we can do programmatically to make the West Campus parking more palatable for the students.”
Sherwood said the university has offered a free shuttle bus service between the two sides of campus for several years, but said some students complain that it doesn’t run frequently enough.
He said a potential fix might be to increase the number of shuttles on campus and to provide other convenient transportation options to students, such as golf carts or bicycles.
Sherwood said that his committee is also considering construction options that would make West Campus a more attractive parking option to students, such as placing food venues along the route to East Campus or building a new student center on the West Campus.
He said a major goal of the 10-year facility plan is to reduce the number of commuter students from 70 percent of the total population to 50 percent by building more student residences on campus.
“If we have a bigger portion of students who are dorm students, hopefully their cars would stay where they are and not be moving through town during the day,” he said.
Perdue said the university might be able to encourage more students to park on the West side by better educating them about the layout of campus. He said that side of campus is much closer to where students want to be than they realize.
“If you take an aerial map of Shepherdstown and look at where these students are parking, many of them are parking in places where they really would be better off parking on the campus, but they misperceive how quickly they can walk from our own campus parking area on the West Campus and get to where they’re going,” he said. “It is easy to deceive yourself into thinking that you have found a shortcut when you’ve really wound up picking a place that is further away than you realized.”
Sherwood said the next academic year will likely see a great reduction in the number of student vehicles in Shepherdstown because of the new campus in Martinsburg. He said that half of the university’s commuter students come from Martinsburg and that providing classes for them there may eliminate their need to drive to Shepherdstown on a daily basis.