Not many students actually relied on the parking lot in Schenley Quadrangle for parking — but it served other purposes for carless Quad residents. It was instrumental as a pick-up and drop-off point for Ubers and allowed families to park right by dorms on moving days.
But this useful transportation hub will be totally gone by the start of the fall term. Pitt has decided to rip up the lot to make room for some green space.
Panther Central first notified students in early March via email that the University planned to remove the parking lot and install a green space with benches and grass “for studying, relaxing and enjoying the outdoors.” While another space on campus to chill out and catch some rays sounds good, it now comes at the price of an integral part of life on Pitt’s campus — and it is doubtful that the end product will even be worth the change.
The lot was important for student life on campus mainly because it served as a place of exchange. Delivery drivers could come right up by students’ dorms instead of waiting out on Forbes or Fifth. Grandparents stopping by to take students out for birthday dinners didn’t have to pay to wait half an hour in the Soldiers and Sailors parking garage.
And it was crucial for ridesharing, a popular student transportation method. Ubers could pick up people heading to interviews Downtown or to shop at the Waterfront. Lyfts could drop tipsy residents right outside Bruce or Brackenridge.
Annalise Shaffer, a rising junior majoring in Supply Chain Management, said she feels the Quad is a safer option as a pick-up and drop-off point for Ubers. She talked about an incident where a friend of hers was nearly grabbed by a stranger while on campus and how she feels safer in the Quad due to the security guards in each of the dorms.
“The Quad is a much safer place to call an Uber than a busy street corner,” she said.
Getting rid of the parking lot is not only making students’ lives harder, but the lives of their families as well. The relatives of the Quad’s 1,200 residents will have lost a crucial parking place come September, hindering their ability to help students move into their residence halls.
Pitt communications manager Deborah Todd said Pitt plans to restrict parking on streets running perpendicular to Fifth Avenue for families moving students into the Quad dorms in the fall. But this would only aggravate traffic congestion and force families to walk farther with housing carts full to the brim.
Removing an extremely valuable parking lot is not the only issue with these renovations. Pitt is spending $5 million on this project, and that money is going to the wrong place.
The University said in April that the main focus of this project is to provide Pitt students with more space to sprawl out on some grass, hang out and get some studying done — basically turning the Quad into a mini-Schenley Plaza or Soldiers Lawn. But what makes Schenley and Soldiers such popular hang out spots is that they get a lot of sun — and sunlight in the Quad’s center is blocked by dorm rooms surrounding it for most of the day.
Samantha Walter, a rising junior majoring in psychology and a former Amos Hall resident, said the renovations are “a waste of time and money,” and expects the renovations to go largely unused because of the buildings surrounding the Quad.
There are some who are in favor of the changes — Claire Hickey, a rising junior majoring in mathematics and former resident of both Holland and Brackenridge, said she is tired of careless drivers ripping through the Quad. Also, the green space would offer student groups an additional place to hold events.
“It may make the Quad a safer place to reach Towers and a more convenient area for the frats and sororities to hold their social [and] fundraising events,” she said.
But excess noise could prove to be distracting to students living in the Quad if they are trying to study. While people can leave Schenley Plaza or Soldiers and Sailors if they become bothered by activity, students shouldn’t be expected to leave their dorms to search out a quieter place if a club is blasting “Party in the USA” under their window every week.
If Pitt really wanted to create an additional green space for students, it could have done it in a more creative, convenient location that would not have robbed people of a valuable parking space. Hillman Library is already undergoing renovations of its own, so it would have been easy for Pitt to create another grassy hangout spot there. One of the sprawling concrete areas around Posvar could also have easily been replaced with grass and benches instead.
These renovations are only going to add more complications to moving into a new dorm and traveling around the City — all for a parklet that could have easily been put somewhere else.