Parking struggles still plague Walker lot

GVL Archive / Emily Rogers
The park and ride is becoming increasingly crowded, making the bus seem like a less attractive alternative

GVL Archive / Emily Rogers The park and ride is becoming increasingly crowded, making the bus seem like a less attractive alternative

Chelsea Lane

Thousands of commuters drive to and from each of Grand Valley State University’s Allendale and downtown campuses each day, but issues with the Walker Fire Station’s park and ride lot have some students developing a case of road rage.

The park and ride lot at the Walker Firehouse, located at 4101 Lake Michigan Drive in Walker, has been an ongoing problem for the city and commuters alike. The lot is one of two official locations where commuter students can leave their cars and ride the Rapid bus system to the GVSU Allendale Campus in order to avoid buying a GVSU parking pass.

The lack of legal parking spaces in the Walker lot has led some commuters to illegally create their own parking spots, often blocking or boxing in other parked cars. The city added new signs and upgraded the lot’s parking lines last year in hopes of ensuring legal parking spaces were clearly marked and to prevent illegal parking.

Walker City Manager Cathy VanderMeulen said her office has only received one complaint about the park and ride lot since the new school year started. But she added the lot presents a difficult space issue, as it is utilized by not just commuters but also local businesses and the city fire department.

“The city’s options are somewhat limited,” she said. “The difficulty is that we are trying to maintain as much accessibility as possible to those lots and access to our firefighters if they need to get in there … When that parking lot was built, I don’t think anyone anticipated how popular it was going to be.”

The Walker police began ticketing illegally parked cars in response to the overflow. Some Rapid riders, however, think Walker and GVSU have not taken enough action to resolve the space issues at the park and ride lot.

“This is by far the worst solution to the problem,” said GVSU commuter student Cory Becker of police-issued tickets. “With Grand Valley and Grand Rapids working towards sustainability and environmental responsibility, discouraging people from using public transportation through police citation and/or towing seems to conflict with the ideals the community is trying to support.”

Two years ago, GVSU explored the possibility of purchasing a lot near the Walker Fire Station to expand parking, but the university decided against the purchase due to financial reasons. A representative from Pew Campus Services was not available for comment on what new plans the university has for the future of the park and ride lot.

But Becker thinks the central problems with the Walker lot remain unresolved by the university.

“While the simple answer may be, ‘If there are no spots available, do not park illegally and you will not get a ticket,’ it does not address the heart of the problem,” he said. “With the school year having just begun, this situation needs to be addressed swiftly and efficiently. As the motto that hangs in the GVSU classrooms says, ‘You need to be here to succeed.’ I would hate to think that student success in the classroom is hindered by a full parking lot and inability to legally make it to campus and attend class on time.”

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