Faculty, students complain about decade-long parking waitlist, lack of available spots on campus


Romita Das | Senior Staff Photographer

Cars parked on a street in Oakland.

By Madilyn Cianci, Staff Writer

Helen Jarosz, an administrative assistant at Barco Law Library, stayed on Pitt’s parking services waitlist for 13 years before she received her parking spot in 2017.

I’ve worked at Pitt for 38 years,” Jarosz said. “If there’s one lesson I’ve learned working here, it’s that Pitt works on its own timeline.” 

Commuters can pay for parking at a garage or meter on campus, or try their luck searching for an empty spot in South Oakland. However, these options are often difficult or costly — which is why University parking permits are in high demand.

Pitt’s Office of Mobility allocates parking permits for Pitt staff, faculty, campus residents and commuter students at University campus parking lots and garages. People looking for parking permits can request passes online and join the thousands of people already on the waitlist. According to Jonathan Pearson, director of mobility for the University, there are approximately 4,300 parking spaces located on campus. 

However, some professors claim they got tenure before a parking spot.

Jarosz applied for a parking spot in March 2004 so she could easily get home to take care of her mother in Lawrenceville, who relies on her in case of emergency. During Jarosz’s 13-year long wait, she took a bus to campus, carpooled and often parked at Panther Hollow — a parking lot that is now a transportation corridor. 

Panther Hollow is not the only lot lost to construction. Building for the future recreation and wellness center began after the demolition of the garage on O’Hara St., and Jarosz mentioned she remained on a waitlist for a parking lot that is now Nordenberg Hall. 

According to Marc Coutanche, who has remained on the waitlist for seven years, Pitt must recognize the importance of existing parking and consider the possibility of expanding it. 

“Every year you lose a few spots here, a few spots there, a hundred spots there,” Coutanche, associate professor of psychology, said. “And, obviously, the number of people at Pitt is the same or increasing.”

The number of Pitt students in 2021 rose from the previous year by more than 1,000 people — a total of 29,238 students. 

Coutanche said inaccessibility to parking services affects where faculty and staff choose to live. 

“There are a number of implications when one can’t commute by car,” Coutanche said. “You can’t live in places that the buses don’t go or you can’t walk to. It significantly restricts the houses you can live in.”

Because of fewer housing options caused by parking, Coutanche chose to live in South Side. The Hot Metal Bridge allows him to safely go across on his electric scooter — which he often takes to work when weather permits.

Pearson said the University is working with local developers and real estate experts to identify additional mobility and parking space opportunities around campus, which includes plans for parking space at a proposed hillside residence hall. The University is also actively searching for additional park-and-ride locations to provide area parking and shuttle services to and from campus.

Aside from parking expansion and park-and-ride options, the mobility department encourages Pitt community members to download the ParkMobile app, which increases awareness and access of available parking spaces. Pearson also said people should consider eco-friendly alternate modes of transportation, including carpooling and vanpooling

Raja Adal, an associate professor in the department of history, immediately applied for a parking permit when he joined Pitt in 2015. 

“I was told that in time I would get a place, I think I was told three to five years.” Adal said. “I checked back in 2020 and I was told I didn’t have a spot yet.”

Adal sought out a parking permit not only because meters are expensive, but because it would allow him to easily take his three children to school. 

“Most of the time I either bike to school or take the bus,” Adal said. “But I also have to juggle taking kids to school.”

Adal’s electric bike has helped him “get a taste of what having adequate parking services would be like,” but admits he often needs a car to help transport his children. 

According to Pearson, the University encourages cycling as an alternate mode of transportation and exercise that reduces greenhouse gasses. However, some said they feel there are not enough bike lanes on campus. 

When Coutanche gave his opinion that cycling in Oakland is not entirely safe, he referenced an accident that occurred in 2015, where a Pitt administrator died after her bicycle was hit by a car. 

“There aren’t as many bike lanes as there should be,” Coutanche said. “I used to live in London and I felt more comfortable cycling there than I do here.”

Public transportation is another alternative mode of transportation for faculty and staff — however, not all buses travel where faculty and staff may need them. Because of the lack of bus routes, some commuters use multiple modes of transportation to get to campus.

“There are quite a few staff members in my department that take two buses to get here,” Jarosz said. “I give them a lot of credit because they make it here early every day.”

Coutanche said that as construction increases and parking spaces decrease, permit-holders are holding onto their spots to avoid the chance of never having one again.

“As the parking becomes more and more difficult, which it is, it’s getting worse, faculty and staff, understandably, hold onto that space.” Coutanche said. 

Paige Branagan, a sophomore digital narrative and interactive design major, said both her and her sister, a Pitt graduate student, were late to class multiple times because of poor parking conditions. Branagan’s sister, who commutes to campus from Avalon, is frequently late to class due to the combined conditions of traffic and limited parking.

Branagan, who lives on Parkview Ave., said the parking congestion goes deep into Oakland. 

“Parkview is better because it’s more residential, but it’s still kind of hard.” Branagan said. “The entire street is usually lined up.”

She said although her road is often filled with cars, she knows roads closer to campus such as Meyran, Oakland and South Bouquet are even more difficult to park on.

“As you get closer to campus, you know you’re not going to find parking,” Branagan said. 

While Pitt encourages community members to use alternative services, Coutanche observed that these practices affect his efforts to recruit faculty.

“Understandably, they ask how you get to work — and we tell them the truth,” Coutanche said. “They get the information that,unless you want to spend a lot on leasing a spot, you have to be okay with taking the bus or walking or cycling in a somewhat unsafe environment.”