As far back as 2000, when RBHS’ student population nearly doubled, students have used the curb along Executive Drive, nicknamed “Sophomore Alley,” as a parking place for those who are unable to get a parking pass from the school or want a more convenient place to park during the school days.
Recently, however, many students parking in Sophomore Alley have been ticketed by the city for parking along a painted curb. Senior Kyle Shearrer said he received one such ticket but was unaware that the newly-painted curb was a no-parking zone when he parked there.
“I was parked in the yellow line, which I now know is illegal but didn’t at the time,” Shearrer said. “Last year the yellow line did not extend past the ‘no-parking’ sign, so I just went with that when I parked.”
Shearrer isn’t the only student who has parked along the painted curb. Parking attendant Darryl Heaton said he has seen numerous students parking in this section of Sophomore Alley, though he doesn’t understand why students parking in Sophomore Alley is a problem.
“I counted 12 cars up there just this morning at 9:30, and of those 12, two of them were parked in yellow,” Heaton said. “I just don’t know why these students continue to park there when, for over a year and a half now, anyone who goes to school [at RBHS] and is 16 has been able to purchase a parking pass.”
Despite students like Shearrer who say they’ve noticed changes in the parking availability in Sophomore Alley, Stephen Sapp, the Public Information Specialist for Columbia Public Works, said Executive Drive has not been changed recently.
“There have been no changes for at least … three or more years to the parking prohibitions on Executive Drive,” Sapp said. “We routinely refresh paint on roadways and curbs, so perhaps it appears changes were made due to fresh paint.”
Though the seemingly new parking prohibitions in Sophomore Alley have confused many, Sapp said the parking prohibitions that exist there currently follow the guidelines set by Columbia Public Works on all roads they maintain. On these roads, he said, there is no parking allowed within 30 feet of any stop sign, intersection or driveway.
“All parking prohibitions on Executive Drive were discussions with the school and the businesses and property owners,” Sapp said. “Our number one goal is to provide a safe means of travel for both pedestrians and vehicles.”
Whether or not the city made changes to the availability of parking in Sophomore Alley, Heaton said the school has plenty of parking spaces for the students to use in the school parking lots rather than parking in Sophomore Alley or along other roads near the school that are less convenient.
“Why have our students park off-campus and in Sophomore Alley and walk and be unsafe when we’ve got plenty of room here?” Heaton said. “We discourage [parking off-campus] because we have plenty of safe parking. That was one of the reasons the administrators decided to let everybody park that had a license. It’s further to walk from Sophomore Alley to school than it would be from our furthest north in the ball field parking lot.”
Even if the school does have enough parking spaces for students, Shearrer said the school spaces still aren’t beneficial to every student who needs a parking spot at the school. For students who do not drive to school every day or have trouble affording the $50 parking passes provided by the school, he said it is much more convenient and logical to park off campus.
“There are always times when someone needs to park once or twice a week or month or simply can’t afford a pass. I think spots like Sophomore Alley are very important for this. I also know that the back of the Career Center parking lot — back In Siberia — has lots of space in the back of it, [but they’re] not very appetizing spots to park,” Shearrer said. “The fact is that our school is growing. Each class size has increased by 50 to 100 [students] and nothing has been done to address the need for new parking. In fact, we’ve lost spots, be it new sections of the South lot being made into teacher parking last year or the Sophomore Alley thing this year.”
Still, Heaton said the school provides plenty of parking for all its students and thinks the largest issue with students parking off campus is simply a misunderstanding of who is allowed to park in the school lots. Yet this miscommunication, at the end of the day, continues to cause problems for the school and for students.
“The main issues are really one of two things: miscommunication, where they just don’t know what’s allowed, or they just don’t want to spend the money. It makes it difficult for us at the end of the day getting buses out, and when people are leaving and you’re turning right on South and those vehicles are there … that’s definitely unsafe because the traffic’s high and you can’t get out,” Heaton said. “It’s in our green sheet and it’s in the handbook of our parking policies. We discourage [parking off-campus] because we have plenty of safe parking [in the lots].”
By Nicole Schroeder