Parking, Speeding Plague Neighborhood

In today’s Daily News Record, Jeff Mellot reported that Harrisonburg’s City Council is expected to consider ways to help residents combat speeders on Chestnut Drive and ease parking problems on neighborhood streets. Chestnut Street runs parallel to South High Street / Route 42, and it is located near Memorial Hall. Many residents along Chestnut Street and the surrounding areas are blaming JMU students for the parking and speeding problems currently plaguing the nearby neighborhoods. These residents want the City Council to mandate parking permits and increase the number of stop signs to calm traffic.

I have several thoughts on the situation.

1. JMU is a parking nightmare: JMU is experiencing a parking crisis. When students and faculty members travel to campus, the majority of them drive their automobiles. JMU has numerous parking lots and garages, but it seems that the parking situation only gets worse and worse. Before classes students circle around the lots like sharks waiting for someone to leave their space. JMU has an excellent bus system, but students ignore mass transit because of the availability of on-campus parking and parking permits.

The situation on Chestnut Drive is an example of this parking crisis. Memorial Hall is located off of the main campus, and many students are forced to drive or take the bus to attend their classes. The parking limitations at Memorial Hall have forced students to look to surrounding neighborhoods for their parking needs.

I think that this crisis could be alleviated via a number of different ways:

  • Limit the number of parking permits issued – It’s too easy to obtain a parking permit. JMU parking services should only give permits to students that satisfy certain criteria (e.g. 3.0 GPA, upperclassmen)
  • Limit the number of parking spaces – Contrary to popular belief, new parking spaces only make the parking situation worse. When new lots and garages are constructed, the desire to drive to campus increases and more people drive to campus.
  • Place Emphasis on Bus System – JMU’s transit system is reliable and easy, but very few off-campus residents take the bus.
  • Limit off-campus expansions – reduce the need for parking and driving

2. There are multiple ways to eliminate speeding:

  • Add stop signs and traffic signals
  • Narrow road widths
  • Provide on street parking
  • Introduce irregular parking patterns (e.g. roundabout, fork in the road)

3. Are JMU students really speeding on Chestnut Drive? Chestnut Drive is located behind Memorial Hall, and I can’t imagine that many JMU students travel along that road. Chestnut Drive is not a major road, and it does not lead towards campus or any of the popular off-campus residences. This situation makes me wonder if Chestnut residents are using JMU students as scapegoats because of the negative relationship between the University and the community. In recent past JMU used eminent domain to knock down local businesses and expand campus, and these actions aggravated the local community. Furthermore, many residents view JMU students are drunken, irresponsible party animals.

However, it is entirely possible that students are using Chestnut Drive as a shortcut and speeding across it, and this situation demonstrates the need for JMU to exercise caution when they interact with the Harrisonburg community.


  1. finnegan

    Interesting thoughts. Ditto the comments on buses. H’burg would never go for roundabouts, though.

    I’m linking this post on Feel free to participate in the discussion.

  2. David

    I second finnegan’s thoughts. roundabouts are too much of a long-term, initial investment, low maintenance solution for any american city to consider using.

    I frequent chestnut and south dogwood drives on my way to and from work as an alternative to 42 and frequently get tailgated.

  3. Thanh Dang

    I think that your thoughts are very good. I also think that you should share them with some people at JMU and at the City who might be able to do something about it.

    I’m not sure if you area aware but there is a group of faculty, staff, students, City staff and some City citizens who are working together to assess and make the JMU campus more sustainable. The group is called “The Sustainable Campus Working Group” and its co-chaired by Towana Moore (Facilities Mgmt) and Dr. Maria Papadakis (ISAT Prof). Although they’re only in the assessment stage, they’re doing some really great work with subgroups examining air quality, water usage/runoff, transportation, energy, building & renovation, food services, waste mgmt/recycling, and landscaping.

    Anyway, my point is that you should contact the group, particularly the Transportation Group who’s facilitator is Dr. Papadakis. Just share with them your ideas or ask to join the group. Also, the City has a Transportation Planner, Donovan Branche. She was the one who has been working with residents in that area and JMU, and who also gave the presentation to City Council on the situation. Hope that helps.

  4. finnegan


    Is there a reason you don’t respond to comments? It’s nice for the commenters to know that you’re reading.

  5. Richard Layman

    There has been much written, including by Donald Shoup, about college students and transit, transit passes, etc.

    The solution here seems pretty obvious, as you have outlined.

    and this for the sustainable people

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