With recent parking changes in State College and at Penn State, downtown visitors may discover there are fewer places to park for free.
On July 1, a parking change went into effect for most on-campus lots, reserving them solely for parking-permit holders 24/7. Those lots are: Eisenhower Parking Deck; Brown A, C and E; Green C, H and N; Red K; Silver B; and Yellow E, H, J, L, M, S and T.
“We see a lot of lots on the weekends where visitors come ... park in those areas, and then our permit holders who pay either a monthly or semester fee ... can show up to a lot and it’s completely full,” said Jason Thomas, special projects coordinator and marketing director at Penn State Transportation Services.
Changes to the on-campus parking lots were both an effort to preserve permit value for permit holders and “ensure that they have more access to parking, which they’re already paying for during evening or especially weekend hours,” he said.
In addition to the lot changes, the East, HUB and Nittany parking decks will move to 24/7 payment operations, meaning weekend parking and midnight-6 a.m. parking will no longer be free. The parking deck gate will be down at all times and hourly and visitor parking for the decks will stay $1 per hour with a $12 daily maximum fee, Thomas said.
The 24/7 payment changes are something Penn State has been considering for a while, Thomas said, in part because “building, operating and maintaining parking facilities on campus is a significant expense.”
Changes were approved in the spring, he said, and Penn State wanted to roll out the changes in the summer before some of the big events, like Arts Fest, happened.
Penn State faculty/staff and student permit holders won’t be affected by these changes, except to allow them more opportunity to use their permit, he said.
For those who visit Penn State often, the university offers two different monthly permits: a $10 a month daytime parking access permit and a $6 a month evening/weekend parking permit.
But for one-time weekend visitors, the parking decks are probably the best deal, Thomas said, or paying $5 to park at Jordan East or Stadium West near the Bryce Jordan Center and riding the CATA Blue loop or campus shuttle into town.
However, free parking is still in place for the Red A, all Orange and Commuter lots on weekdays after 5 p.m. and all day Saturdays and Sundays, except for certain events.
The State College borough recently implemented parking changes, as well, including the Highlands Residential Parking Pilot Program.
“It’s just that if you don’t live in the Highlands, you can’t park there,” said Douglas Shontz, borough communications specialist.
Residents of the Highlands can register for a certain number of guest and resident permits for overnight parking for non-event times. For events like Arts Fest, guest and resident permits are available for purchase at $10 per permit over a 24-hour period for overnight parking only. The event restrictions are in effect until 6 a.m. Sunday.
That also means that during large events like Arts Fest and home football weekends, the borough suspends the “No Parking 2 a.m. to 6 a.m.” restrictions in every State College neighborhood except for the Highlands, Shontz said.
The pilot program was first brought to council by the Highlands Civic Association, which argued that the influx of parked cars belonging to non-residents during event weekends posed a “safety and quality of life issue,” he said. Council approved the program in 2018 and it went into effect March 1.
“We still have our parking staff continuing to collect data and we’ll present all of that to council to see if this parking program should continue,” said Shontz.