Residents of neighborhoods near Morgan State University, upset with students and staff monopolizing parking in their communities, took their frustration to the school itself Monday morning.
Organizers of the daylong protest said that Morgan has not done enough to stop off-campus parking. And they said they need better enforcement on the streets that are protected by the residential parking permit program.
"I'm tired of being a prisoner in my own home," said Jeanette Pindell. She held a sign in the median on Hillen Road at Cold Spring Lane that read, "We support Morgan. Now support us."
She said she avoids moving her car during the day for fear of not finding a space closer than four or five blocks from her home. Organizer Sydnei SmithJordan said she knows neighbors who take the bus to the store rather than lose their parking spots.
Morgan officials said they have urged students and staff to be considerate of the college's neighbors but that there's only so much they can do. In October, the university community received an e-mail asking students to use on-campus parking and to avoid occupying street spots for hours.
On-campus parking costs $150 annually for commuters and $250 for residents, according to Morgan's website. The price of daily garage parking is 50 cents an hour, capped at a maximum of $4, with the first half-hour free, said university spokesman Clinton R. Coleman.
However, there are only about 3,000 on-campus parking spaces for the 7,900 students and 2,000 faculty and staff, Coleman said. And more than two-thirds of the student population commutes to classes, he said.
Coleman said the parking problem was probably exacerbated by the construction of the new Center for the Built Environment and Infrastructure Studies, which began in the spring on what was once a free parking lot. When completed in 2012, the building will house Morgan's architecture and engineering programs and will also include 300 parking spaces.
After construction began, commuters were allowed to park for free in two lots connected to campus by the university shuttle, and the shuttle service became more frequent, he said.
But the campus is landlocked, and with growing enrollment come demands for more academic buildings as well as dorms and parking, he said. Morgan President, David Wilson has a meeting scheduled for Wednesday with representatives from four community associations to discuss this issue, Coleman said.
Morgan students and staff don't have a lot of other transportation options, he said. The university has worked with the Maryland Transit Administration to keep existing bus stops, Coleman said.
Residents want to know why Morgan can't follow the lead of other city campuses, such as Loyola University maryland. There, students are required to register their cars with the university, said spokeswoman Courtney Jolley. Loyola tickets those who violate the rule and gives neighbors yard signs to emphasize the student parking ban.
"For years, we've had to fight to keep ownership of the neighborhood in terms of parking," said Morgan neighbor Antonio Coward. He said students also show disrespect by littering, parking on the wrong side of the street and other offenses.
Coward lives on Hartsdale Road, which has limited parking through Baltimore's residential permit program. On streets in the residential permit program, only drivers with permits are allowed to leave their cars for longer than two hours between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Coward said residents would like to expand the program to include more streets, to reduce the permitted time to one hour and extend the hours it would be in effect through 9 p.m.
But it's not an effective deterrent, he said, since it takes hours for parking enforcement to respond to complaints. Instead, it's "a contribution to the city revenue," Coward said.
Adrienne Barnes, a spokeswoman for the Baltimore Department of Transportation, said that parking enforcement agents patrol the roads near Morgan daily, as they do all permit parking areas. However, because of the size of the residential area near Morgan, agents might not cover every street every day.
"We recognize that because of the college, sometimes [residents] do get inundated and overwhelmed," she said. Transportation officials are working with Morgan to try to curtail violations, she said.
Students say they find themselves struggling between paying for on-campus parking that's usually full or dodging tickets on streets where towing is enforced during rush hour.
"You're trying to find loopholes everywhere," said Quawnecia Johnson, 22, a senior who is majoring in biology.
Johnson said she used to pay to park on campus, but gates were often broken, so even people without permits would park there.