College students at West Texas A&M University headed back to class on Monday. That is, if they found a parking spot in time to get there.
Parking has long been an issue for students and staff on many college campuses, and WTAMU is no different. Pronews 7 spoke with several WT students and all shared the same sentiment -- parking on campus was a nightmare.
"Oh man, it's hectic," said WTAMU Junior Aaron Souvannasacd. "You have to come to campus like 30 minutes early."
"I even went to the United Grocery Store parking lot and there was still no parking," added WTAMU Senior, Chyna Tinney. "So, it's kind of a first come, first serve, find what you can."
Some of this years parking pains may be in part to a learning curve that comes with a new parking permit system at WTAMU. In previous years, there were various categories of permits for different students, faculty or staff. This year, Parking Services implemented a new system.
"We now just require one parking permit and you can park in any valid parking place," explained WTAMU Director of Police Administration Meri Lyn Odell. "By that I mean not in a handicapped spot, not in a fire lane, not in a loading zone unless those apply to you."
That means, any valid parking spot on campus is now fair game for all students, staff and faculty. Odell said it's common for the first few days of the semester to be a little more crowded that normal and eventually things will calm down.
"It's very crowded at first," she said. "It takes us a week, a couple of weeks to get into a schedule, determine how early we need to come or where we'd like to park, what areas are open for us to do so."
Students like Chyna admitted this years system does seem to be more efficient than last years, but sometimes even having a permit at all might not be worth it.
"Nine times out of ten even if you have a permit, they're still all full and you have to park off campus," said Chyna. "So, sometimes I think it's just easier to don't even have a permit and just park off campus."
"To be honest, they should make more parking spots," laughed Aaron. "I don't know if that's possible but it'd be nice."
In fact, WTAMU did open a brand new parking lost just north of the Sports Complex Wednesday morning. Odell said they hoped that would alleviate some of the problems and if students still have difficulty parking, they should consider using the university's shuttle system -- The Buffalo Express.
"You can ride the Buffalo Express from the First United Bank Center, it does not require a permit to park out there," Odell said. "You can park out there, get on the buss and it stops at four different locations on campus."
The Buffalo Express doesn't cost any student any extra fee to ride and it consists of three shuttle buses that circle throughout the four-stop route every day, Monday through Friday, from 7:00 a.m. To 6:00 p.m. For students who did buy parking permits this year, it cost them $40. Faculty members had to pay $50.