GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Residents and neighborhood organizations like SWAN (South West Area Neighbors) say congested parking is still a major issue. Residents on Gold Avenue NW, Veto Street and California claim it’s mostly students from Grand Valley State University’s downtown Pew campus who are parking along both sides of their streets causing a safety hazard.
“Despite the fact that they want things for free, it’s an eyesore for this community,” says John Wilson, Grand Rapids resident. “They can find parking somewhere else.”
According to GVSU, full-time students can park on campus for $175 per semester. They receive a few free parking passes each year, or they can ride the bus for free with a student ID.
“I just really don’t see why I have to pay to park when I can park in the community,” says Drew Portenga, GVSU senior.
Some students say they didn’t realize this was such an issue for residents but notice police cracking down on illegal parking.
“If you park on the wrong side of the road on certain days, you’ll probably get a ticket,” says Portenga. “A couple weeks ago, I got a parking ticket because I parked too close to a driveway. It was within three feet.”
Meanwhile, residents say the high number of parked cars is more than a safety hazard for incoming ambulances or fire trucks. “The main concern is this is where I put my trash out at, and I haven’t been able to get it out for the past month,” adds Wilson.
SWAN says some of these streets were so crowded that snow plows were delayed for days.
“It’s very frustrating and irritating to some of the neighbors when you have to go boon-docking out of your driveway into a two-track and use your car like a plow to get out of your house,” explains Marie Cimochowicz, community organizer with SWAN.
Now the advocacy group is working with neighbors to petition for a residential parking permit program. Last spring, the Grand Rapids Parking Commission ran a pilot program in one neighborhood and called it a success. “Parking got a little bit easier on the blocks surrounding as well,” says Pamela Ritsema, Grand Rapids parking services manager. I think people saw the signs and just figured, ‘Oh, I’m not going to try and park here.”
Ritsema says residents must petition and collect 60 percent of residential signatures in favor of a residential permit parking program, then deliver that to the Parking Services Department. Once in place, residents can apply for a $15 permit for their neighborhood every six months.
“I’d be willing to pay thirty bucks a year if I could have my parking space in front of my house,” says Cimochowicz. “It’s just because the neighbors have too many cars and not enough driveways, it’s not always just the college kids. But a large part of the problem is the students.”
SWAN says neighbors near the downtown campus of GVSU still need to select a resident to begin this formal petition for the residential parking permit program. If residents have questions, they can contact the Grand Rapids Parking Services Department at (616) 456-3290.