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ECU officials try to keep order in parking chaos

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An automated sign reads "No Dropoff Traffic" as a student crosses Founders Drive Thursday, April 12, 2018. East Carolina University's Parking and Transportation Services will be fining drivers $25 for dropping off students in the area.

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By Tyler Stocks
The Daily Reflector

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Traffic concerns compounded by ongoing construction at ECU and the closure of a popular drop-off location are behind a recent crackdown on unauthorized use of service roads on main campus.

The university this month began issuing tickets to motorists who are utilizing service roads to pick up and drop off students, officials said. The roads have always been off limits as transfer points, but traffic has increased dramatically with construction in the area between 10th Street and Joyner Library. 

Construction of a 210,000-square-foot student center and a parking deck are expected to be open in the fall, but the work eliminated parking in the area and closed Sonic Plaza a transfer point. University officials began issuing tickets to drivers on service roads at the start of April. The effort followed a three-week education campaign, officials said.

“We don’t want to ticket anybody,” Director of Parking and Transportation Deb Garfi said, but the service road traffic blocks emergency vehicles, permit holders and service vehicles. Hundreds of students also walk on the roadways as well to get to class, raising concerns about their safety, Garfi said.

Complaints from students, staff and faculty increased 10-fold due to the traffic, she said. Traffic is particularly heavy on Founders Drive and Ormond Way, with backups that block traffic on 10th Street.

“This has been an ongoing issue for months and months,” said Lt. Chris Sutton of the East Carolina University Police Department. “These are higher traffic areas and many students are walking over from complexes and College Hill. Over the several months, we've had an extensive amount of vehicle traffic. Drop-offs were causing congestion on 10th street.

He said the campus needs designated drop-off points. "Because our university is going through a period of growth, it requires us all to be patient and understand when this occurs, we have to maintain safety. There has to be cooperation between motorists and pedestrians,” Sutton said.

Safety is the overwhelming concern, he said. “We want to be able to work towards a solution where we can continue to improve safety. If motorists can avoid that area for drop offs, this helps us tremendously,” Sutton said.

Officials are encouraging students to use the Minges park and ride bus system. Motorists will not be subject to ticketing there when picking up or dropping off. Otherwise, tickets are $25.

ECU Parking and Transportation is the agency doing the ticketing, not the police department. Drivers have 10 days to appeal the fine and Garfi said her office will remain considerate of student situations.

“Safety issues should trump everything else,” she said. “We were faced with an issue we had to take action on. We tried to do it in the least upsetting way. We're not trying to harm anybody, we're just looking at the big picture of campus as a whole.”

Contact Tyler Stocks at tstocks@reflector.com and 329-9566.

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