There was a time when you could park anywhere at UNH.
The University campus was built just before cars came to Durham. At first, faculty and staff lived close enough to campus to walk, or took other forms of transportation to campus. As professors bought cars, they started to park near the buildings they worked in, or parked along Main Street.
One of the earliest places to park on campus was on the east side of Thompson Hall. Several buildings, now part of the core campus, were built during the 1920s and early 1930s. The Thompson Hall lot (now known as Lot T) was structured into a more formal parking lot with retaining walls during this time.
Parking areas are not distinguished from walking paths on the 1924 map of campus, below. By the 1920s, a parking area was established in the Conant Courtyard, providing parking for faculty and staff at Murkland, Conant, and DeMeritt Halls. Even in 1924, there were people who could not park between the lines.
For special events on campus and when there were too many cars to park in the usual parking spaces, people parked their cars in open areas around Memorial Field, making impromptu parking lots as needed.
Of interest, there are no parking areas for students in the 1924 map. Students were banned from using cars in Durham in 1926, unless they had express permission from administration.
Although this restriction was later lifted, students prior to World War II, for the most part, did not drive to campus. They had many other transportation options such as regular bus service to Dover, or train service to Boston. Also, owning and maintaining a car was considered too expensive.
After World War II, changes in commuting and housing patterns, and increasing numbers of faculty, staff, and students began to affect parking on campus. More faculty and staff commuted to work. Students, both residents and commuters, wanted to have access to their cars and more reliable parking.
By 1960, parking lots had been established in the core campus area as well as newer lots on the edge of the campus.
A 1951 parking report stated that faculty and staff expected to be able to park near where they worked and specifically noted that extra parking was needed near Kingsbury and Nesmith Halls.
The authors even outlined a plan to pave a significant area around Nesmith to create a larger parking lot and access road. The report also mentioned complaints from the faculty about the rudeness of parking enforcement.
When the Paul Creative Arts Center was dedicated in 1960, there were nearby parking lots available for use during events. But as academic buildings were built in areas once parking lots, easy parking access to PCAC was lost.
A 1969 parking survey mentioned anecdotally a parking protest from Paul Creative Arts faculty and staff who refused to pay parking fines or follow parking regulations because of the perception of lost parking spots. Car and parking access to PCAC remain problematic even today.
Student parking needs started to grow as a result of more students commuting and living off-campus and having more money. Reduction in bus and train services encouraged students to bring cars to campus.
The 1951 parking report stated that students and faculty parking needs were different and that commuting students could find plenty of parking in Durham. Students felt differently and complaints (and jokes) about parking began to show up in The New Hampshire.
The Conant Courtyard parking lot reached its full size by the 1960s. But in future campus master plans, it would be targeted for removal as the campus planning community began to change how parking lots would be developed and located.
By the 1970s, there was discussion as part of campus planning about the future of parking at the university. More buildings were planned and as a result there was tension between using land for parking or for buildings. The policy of moving parking lots and areas out of the core campus and to the periphery was adopted during this time.
As a result of a parking survey and parking reports, a revision of the campus master plan in 1975 included more parking at the periphery of campus. The reports also suggested increasing public transportation and Kari-Van service, building a parking garage, and having faculty pay for parking.
Another part of the revised campus master plan was the identification of parking lots as potential spaces for academic buildings. The parking area in front of the MUB would eventually be built over when the building was renovated.
During the late 1970s and 1980s, parking was much tighter due to the removal of parking lots near the center of campus. Also, future parking lots on the edges of campus had not yet been built. Complaints about parking began to be centered on the lack of finding convenient parking. In 1975 about 75% faculty and students were able to find parking within 5 minutes; however, in 1996, a survey stated that about 49% of faculty needed to search for parking.
Pressures on parking continued also as a result of cutbacks in campus provided public transportation. The success of public transportation depended on frequency of buses, cost to ridership, and convenient routes. In the 1980s, budget cutting led to fewer buses on the road, reduction in routes, and the perception of public transit as being inconvenient. Students, who have always been affected the most by changes in access to parking lots, voted to raise student fees in order to fund more public transit in the late 1990s.
College Road, now a major transit artery on campus, started as a parking lot and path to other parking areas on campus. One continuing problem for public transit on campus was the amount of traffic on major campus roads. Traffic slowed down the campus shuttles, leading to a perception that the shuttles were not frequent. There were proposals to address these traffic issues, such as the Loop Road project.
With parking comes parking enforcement. From nearly the beginning, if you wanted to have a car on campus, you needed to register the vehicle with the authorities. Proof of campus registration was a parking sticker to be displayed on the bumper. The parking sticker was eventually superseded by the hang-tag and dashboard sticker permits.
The University Police did the majority of parking enforcement until the Traffic Office was formed. The Parking and Transportation Office was created over the summer of 1996 and later became University Transportation Services.
Over the years, there have always been complaints about parking enforcement. The 1951 parking report suggested that academic departments police their own faculty and staff for parking violations.
The parking policy in the 1970s was printed on the campus map. Here you can read the 1976 Parking Regulations.
By 2006, the regulations were 23 pages in length. You can learn more about parking on the University Transportation Services Parking page. Although some might feel that the current regulations still can be summed up in "Don't Even Think of Parking There."
West Edge Lot, the biggest edge-of-campus parking lot, opened in 1996. Facilities and University Transportation Services continue to adjust parking spots, adding some here, eliminating some there. Conant Courtyard parking, reduced to a handful of spaces, was reduced even further to just a couple of service spots in fiscal year 2006-2007.
The 2004 Campus Master Plan advocated for a walking campus with emphasis on consolidating parking on the periphery of campus within walking distance to core campus. The Plan also advocated the building of parking garages (especially to address the needs for event parking on campus), and reliable transit service to periphery parking lots.
The power point slides on display (below) were generated from information gathered for the master plan. The amount of land used for all the parking at UNH is nearly the same amount of land in core campus. With demands for more parking, the question remains of how the university could find more land for parking and if that is the best use of scarce university land.
Campus Maps: 1960 to 2006
Conant Hall: 1924 to 1960s
New Hampshire Hall: 1960s and 1986
The perception that there are not enough parking spots at the university has persisted for over 50 years. Students and staff joke about having permits to hunt for spots. University Transportation Services restates the problem as not a shortage of parking spots, but a shortage of convenient parking spots.
In 1951, there were 285 academic staff who self-identified that they regularly or occasionally drive to work. In 1974, 10,146 parking permits were issued; there were 3,644 parking spaces on campus. By 2002, there were 16,120 faculty, staff, and students at the university and only 6,450 parking spaces.
Over a fifty year period, the university's approach to parking has changed, but not the community's. University planners have committed to a campus parking plan to preserve green space at the university, create a walking campus, and promote a campus aesthetic. Yet faculty, staff and students want to park near their places of work and study. Parking policies at the university must address both concerns.
At the heart of the parking issue at UNH lies the question of community values and what impact our desire for convenience has on our community. What value do you place on green space at the university? Would your parking behavior be changed through higher parking fees and reliable public transit? Would you find more convenient parking if there were parking garages on campus? If more parking was built, what would the university lose?
There is also a greater issue surrounding cars and parking: the impact of thousands of cars coming to and from the university on our environment.