Towson University has hired a consulting firm to develop plans for better on-campus transportation and parking, a long-standing concern of both students and area residents.
David Marks, the Baltimore County councilman who represents Towson, said students parking in nearby communities, like Aigburth Manor, Burkleigh Square and Towson Manor Village, are “a steady source of complaints.”
The firm, Kimley-Horn, will review the demands placed on campus parking and transportation, including shuttle buses, and seek "feedback from the campus community,” so it can collect, compile and review data, said Pam Mooney, the university’s director of parking and transportation services, in an email.
“Final recommendations could include minor changes to our current approaches or significant changes to our programs,” Mooney wrote.
Marks said many residential areas in eastern Towson require a residential permit to park legally, but those areas are not always patrolled by county officials, so permits are not always enforced. Parking violations are not enforced by the county police, but a separate county office.
“Complaints about student parking have not gone away,” he said.
Paul Hartman, an Aigburth Manor resident for around 30 years and a member of the Towson Communities Alliance, said students parking in residential areas has been a problem in Towson as long as he’s lived there.
“The areas that are covered by the residential parking permit have increased, as far as more and more blocks of houses have decided they need them, too,” Hartman said.
The parking situation also makes students on campus unhappy. According to the university’s student-run newspaper, The Towerlight, parking garages on campus fill up in the morning, and students sometimes struggle to get to class on time.
Mooney said Kimley-Horn’s recommendations could include how the school could best use its parking spaces, whether or how it should consider changing its parking rates, and how the campus shuttle service could be changed. Recommendations are expected sometime this semester, according to the university.
Terms of the Kimley-Horn contract were not disclosed. A university spokesman said the school “typically [does not] share the contractual terms” for the amount it pays an outside consulting firm.
Towson University currently has about 22,000 enrolled students, and officials said they expect enrollment to eventually top out at around 25,000. The university added 200 residential beds in the summer of 2018, when it converted a Marriott hotel into residences. The university currently does not list any ongoing or future construction projects to add student housing on campus.
On its website, though, the university makes note of construction projects in the Towson area, including 101 York Road and Towson Row, private developments that will feature student housing.
Hartman said he was glad the university was looking into the parking situation overall. He said he’d like to see extra shuttle service during peak times, and additional shuttles that would connect the part of campus with academic buildings to the parking lots that surround the school’s stadium and arena.
Improving parking is a win-win, he said.
“It makes it easier for the students, which is most important, but it also creates less reason for people to park in the communities,” Hartman said.