Or is it still a privilege, with the heightened cost of parking tickets and the efflux of permits available to students, as well as the various maneuvers they have to make while construction consumes campus?
This year, especially, drivers may face many obstacles because of recent issues surrounding both the Michigan State Police Department and Michigan State University Parking Services, or MSUPS.
There are four main ways of getting around campus during the school year: walking, driving, biking and taking the bus.
So which mode of transportation truly is the best to get around campus?
Although MSU has a mind-boggling 5,192-acre campus, do not fret; many students' routes to classes are mostly 15–20-minute walks once they get onto campus.
However, upperclassmen who don't live in residence halls must walk from their house or apartment to campus and then walk from campus to their class.
Computer science senior Chad Hildwein walks to classes and sometimes to school, as he lives only two blocks behind Grand River. Hildwein said even though walking might not be the most efficient way to get to classes for everyone and that taking the bus might be easier, he enjoys the trip.
“I love walking around campus. It’s super easy to get anywhere you need to get for the most part, unless you’re going across campus,” Hildwein said. “I feel like most of my stuff is like 15 minutes between each other, which is a fine walking distance, and campus is beautiful, so I don’t mind walking at all. I really like it.”
Not all eligible drivers have the upbeat attitude or time Hildwein possesses and instead want to drive to school, even in between classes.
Whether you’ve had a first-hand experience with driving and parking on campus or just heard stories passed between frustrated students, it’s well known that campus parking has been a continuous issue with students and the MSUPS.
Kinesiology sophomore Olivia Jovanovski has been driving on campus for about a year and currently lives a 12-minute drive away from campus. Although Jovanovski drives to school every day, she can attest to the blunders and mishaps that parking causes daily.
“Physically driving is not bad, but parking is terrible,” Jovanovski said. “They give you places where you’re allowed to park with your parking passes, but they are in lots that are nowhere near classes.”
When she instead tries to go to metered parking, Jovanovski said, she rarely finds a spot.
“There were like no spots available when I would get to my classes," Jovanovski said. "And then if I didn’t have time before class, I couldn’t pay for the [metered] parking, and I’d get a $10 or $20 ticket.”
But the $10 or $20 ticket she was referencing was from last year. This year, ticket prices have changed.
In June 2023, the MSU Board of Trustees approved an increased parking violation rate. The policy change raised metered violations from $15 to $20, reserved area violations from $25 to $40 and disabled parking violations from $100 to $115.
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According to MSUPS, unpaid violations may also elicit additional fees or vehicle impoundment.
Even though the parking tickets increased to be “insanely expensive,” Jovanovski said, it's likely that MSU will keep these prices for a while, as evidenced by the previous price sticking for 22 years.
“I hope in the future they give parking passes for lots that are closer to our classes or all-around campus so we can park wherever," Jovanovski said.
More opinions will unravel as the year continues, but with all of this in mind, will the increase in parking fees translate to fewer students driving and trying to park on campus?
Taking the bus
Capital Area Transportation Authority (CATA) buses are one of the main ways that students get around campus. According to the papers stuck up in bus shelters, as well as the few apps' people use to track the schedule, CATA is reliable: the 30-39 buses come every 15 minutes to each stop and take you to the drop-off nearest to your class, all for free.
However, in the past couple of years, the CATA buses have presented restrictions and changes that have caused students to deem them unreliable. From buses coming every 30 minutes instead of every 15, or not even coming at all during the winter, when the buses are usually the most popular, students have had to succumb to walking to their classes.
For these reasons, although it is tempting to think that taking the bus is the most efficient mode of transportation, overall, the bus system may be too unreliable to make it the best transportation system.
It might seem like the most efficient way to get around campus, as it takes less time than walking and taking the bus and you do not need to pay, unlike driving.
There are only a few rules that come with roaming around campus with your bike: register your bike, lock it, park it in a bike rack and keep it under good riding conditions - do not have a broken chain or flat tire, for example.
Luckily, Michigan State has over 20,000 bike parking spaces across campus for all students and there is almost always a set of bike racks outside of each building where you are heading to class.
The MSUPS takes bike security seriously; if a bike does not follow the four rules stated above, they confiscate the bike. If a bike is impounded by MSUPS, “it is taken to the impound lot at MSU Police and Public Safety on campus.” After that, you might have to give in and walk until you can finally retrieve your bike.
With all this in mind, it makes sense that the best option to get around campus is to either walk or bike. Although walking is more time-consuming, it is a sure way of knowing that you will be able to get to class on time and not worry about factors that may lead to you being late, such as parking or delayed bus routes.
Biking saves more time than walking and you are more than likely to find a bike rack with an open slot near the building you need to run into.
Although it might seem daunting to pick one of the options listed above, there is no need to only choose one and stick with it. Instead, try all of the options and see which one works best for you and your schedule.
As for upperclassmen and students who can drive, deciding whether or not to drive completely depends on how far away you live off campus.
Take Hildwein and Jovanovski for example: the former needs to walk just two minutes to get to campus, while the latter needs to drive twelve minutes.
The best solution might be to park somewhere on campus and then walk to your classes from there, instead of driving to each class.
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