The parking situation on Georgia State’s campus won’t be getting any simpler in years to come.
With Georgia State’s acquisition of Turner Field awaiting a few final board meetings and pen strokes, the school’s use of the Braves’ overflow parking lot will soon be up in the air, leaving some students scouring for spots.
Piedmont Central, the university’s brand-spanking new dorm complex which will welcome more than 1,000 students in the 2016 fall semester, has no parking offerings.
And the locally-notorious ParkAtlanta, the city’s parking enforcement contractor, could be out of work soon if the company is unable to renew its contract with the city after it expires this September.
And to overshadow the entire dilemma of driving at all, city and county officials can’t make up
their minds in deciding if and how to expand Atlanta’s transit systems, such as the Streetcar and MARTA railways.
Georgia State is still largely regarded as a commuter school. However, public transportation has become a contentious issue engulfed in an argument over Atlanta’s homeless and criminal populations and their use of the train network.
The current and prospective residents of Turner Field’s surrounding neighborhoods, such as Peoplestown and Summerhill, still don’t know if the city will snake the Streetcar south to carry people between The Ted and Downtown.
Some students said they “hate the Streetcar” due to qualms with its speed and fare price. Some of those same students told The Signal they also “hate MARTA.” But everyone interviewed for this piece said they know that finding a spot to park your own ride on campus can be a cumbersome process.
“For the first two weeks of school, I literally missed like three of my classes because I couldn’t find parking,” Georgia State sophomore Kimberly Woodruff said. “People told us it would get better over, and it never did.”
Georgia State’s Blue Lot, which now doubles as Turner Field’s overflow parking, allows students to leave their cars at the stadium and hop on the university-operated shuttle buses to and from campus.
But during the spring semester, Georgia State sometimes forfeits its spaces for the Atlanta Braves baseball season. An addendum to the original Blue Lot schedule is available online to direct prospective parkers.
The Blue Lot is the only option for free parking, and it can be reliable in its availability of spaces, whereas M Deck fills up most days.
This lot is outside and free of gates or guards, and a number of crimes have occurred, such as property damage and theft.
The initial sketches for the redesign of the Turner Field land detail retail shops, restaurants and housing complexes, among other amenities typified by Atlanta’s other mixed-use developments.
The Blue Lot is slated to be totally covered by a mish-mash of businesses that will lend use to the school and its city.
University President Mark Becker told The Signal in a March 28 interview that these changes could also affect the students’ shuttle services.
Such a change could also offer an opportunity to encourage more biking, according to Joseph Hacker, a Georgia State clinical assistant professor in the policy school.
And with Georgia State maintaining commuter school status, effecting these plans can be tougher than expected.
“Georgia State students are not really biking very much,” Hacker said. “We’re predominantly a commuter college, and some issues could be helped if more people could bike instead of drive. But let’s be honest. There’s not much affordable housing near campus.”
Still, a campus bike plan is now being developed to make Georgia State more bicycle friendly and add more options for pedaling around safely.
Hacker said, although the broad-scheme goals of the bike initiative remain tentative, he and other school leaders have been in touch with city officials and other prominent members of the cycling community to gather feedback on possible plans.
“Safety is the most important thing, but once the bike plan is complete we have to go through a committee process to get approval to make sure it fits the university Master Plan,” he said.
And in reaction to Cycle Hop, a bike-share program coming to Atlanta in July, the school’s student sustainability fee committee has pitched proposals to offer students a free or discounted rate to the program.
And for those without the resources or wherewithal to pedal to school each day, transit operations and the expansion of such have been cluttering the city’s development agenda.
Heated debates surround the prospect of stretching transit offerings to a broader reach of Atlanta neighborhoods. But whether or not the Streetcar will be routed south towards The Ted is yet to be decided, according to Becker.
“[Streetcar expansion] has the potential to be beneficial to students,” he said. “But right now, the Streetcar doesn’t serve a tremendous value to Georgia State. It is convenient getting from, say, the residence halls to Aderhold if you’re in a hurry.”
Becker also said the Turner Field acquisition will be a step in the right direction of school expansion since Georgia State has “taken asphalt parking and converted it.”
“[Georgia State’s already] been buying parking lots and developing campus around it,” he said.