Delayed construction and more student drivers cause miscommunication in the Hawk Lot

As the University of Iowa Department of Parking and Transportation struggles with delays in a multifaceted construction project, it addresses a recent shortage of spots in the Hawk Lot.

Cars are parked in the Hawk Lot on Sunday, Sept. 29, 2019. The Hawk Lot typically houses the cars of students who live in the residence halls.

Grace Culbertson, News Reporter

Thousands of student drivers are packed into the Hawk Lot as the University of Iowa Parking and Transportation Department faces a delayed construction project.

The department reported an increased number of students compared with past years are parking on-campus this semester. Between construction delays and a full Hawk Lot, the university recently faced accusations of overselling passes for the communal student parking lot, the department said.

UI Department of Parking and Transportation communications manager April Wells said the number of passes administered at the semester’s start was higher than its been in five years.

“It’s not a trend we like to see,” Wells said. “We like to see people use alternative options like biking, carpooling, and public transport, because we have an amazing on campus public transportation with Cambus.”

UI Parking services manager Lori Skoff said that passes were sold out by 10 a.m. Aug. 27, the second day of classes. Compared with 962 permits sold in August 2018, students purchased a total of 1,033 permits by last month.

In response to a packed Hawk Lot, Skoff said, students began parking in nondesignated areas, including the grass rugby field. Following two weeks of warnings emailed to student drivers, the department began issuing citations for the 15 to 25 vehicles parked on the rugby field, she said.

Students who received a citation can present their case to the student appeals committee, a jury comprised of fellow students, Wells added. Students whose appeal is not accepted should know it’s their peers, not the department, that made the decision, Wells said.

“Leading up to what I call the ‘perfect storm,’ we had a little delay of construction, and then with our staff permits not moving, we had sold as many permits as we had,” Skoff said. “Everything was just really full. We still had space. [Students] just would’ve had to really drive around and look for space.”

In addition to the increased number of student drivers, the department also faced a delayed three-tier construction project, project manager Greg Schmitt said. 

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The new construction projects aim to provide safety and shelter to students in the Hawk Lots, including expanded parking and 15 by 15 feet heated shelters for students to wait for buses in during the winter.

Both phase one and phase two were supposed to be completed before school began, Schmitt said. Between the construction company’s other projects and weather delays, phase one ended nine weeks behind schedule and the project is only now in its second phase.

“The contractors really drug their feet on this,” Schmitt said. “We were left trying to encourage them to move the project along. This is why we do the projects in the summer when the student body is away.”

UI freshman Quincy Vogel moved in at the beginning of the academic year and said she parked her car in the Hawk Lot ever since. 

“A lot of people have their cars here, so I’m thankful to be able to park my car at school,” Vogel said.

While she finds the number of cars in the lot a bit stressful, Vogel said she believes people were mainly upset about the construction because they lost their original parking spot and were forced to park further away.

“I think [the shelter] is a great idea,” Vogel said. “For students who can’t afford that $12 Uber ride, having a heated place for them to be in the winter is great.”

Skoff said that several people have canceled their passes in the last couple of months for various reasons, so there are now 30 to 40 open spots for vehicles.