Ousted loading zone

Conley Hurst

I returned to Lexington a little early this past September to help move my sister into Graham Lees. I’d heard about the changes to the quad, and, as with any change, I was excited and a little anxious.

As my family and I rounded the hill up Washington Street, I spotted the mammoth façade of the Warner Center unobstructed by Gilliam Hall. We continued up the hill, and Gaines appeared on my left across an (at the time) unfinished green.

I noticed a nice brick right-of-way across Washington Street, quite the aesthetic improvement from only a few months earlier.

But as we prepared to pull off the road to the loading zone to take an early look around, I noticed there was no loading zone to be found. Just some big concrete planter thing-a-ma-jigs.

We pulled off to the side as best we could and began filing out of the car. Just like that, a Public Safety officer rounded the crest of the hill and stopped next to us. He told us we couldn’t stop there.

I told him we would only be a moment; we just wanted to take a quick look around the dorm.

It didn’t matter, he said; we’d have to move along. He informed us that we were stopped on a city street, and you can’t just stop on a city street.

He told us the school had removed the loading area during the quad renovations. I looked at him with a blank stare.

Whenever I hear about a renovation on our campus, I expect the school to do a darn good job.

The Colonnade renovations have been impeccable. The Graham-Lees and Gaines renovations exceeded my expectations. And, generally, the quad renovations have been a positive improvement.

But I have no idea why University Facilities removed the loading zone from Washington Street in front of Graham-Lees.

In all actuality, the loading zone served an integral purpose in the first-year experience: it allowed first-years (who either don’t have cars or have to park their cars a mile away) to be picked up easily from their dorms.

I have a first-year sister living in Graham-Lees and obviously I sometimes need to pick her up outside her dorm.

I drive my car up to the brick right-of-way in front of the building, stop, put my hazards on, and text her that I’m out front. She tells me she’s walking down.

More times than not, a Public Safety officer has pulled up beside me and kindly told me that I can’t stop there.

“But she’s on her way down right now,” I say.

“It doesn’t matter,” they inform me.

So what am I supposed to do? Drive in circles around the quad until she shows up, then slow down just enough so that she can quickly jump in the car without me stopping? Seriously?

I recently emailed Director of Public Safety Ethan Kipnes about this topic. He said the project was managed by University Facilities, as all such construction projects are, and that Public Safety “did not have any imput” on the quad renovation.

I then emailed Executive Director of University Facilities, John Hoogakker.

He said the “principle object” in the project was “maximizing pedestrian safety.” But why, then, was Public Safety not consulted? Isn’t that their job, to maximize safety?

Mr. Hoogakker also mentioned the “limited space available” given the “new stair” from Graham-Lees to Washington Street.

But why again do we need a massive brick platform and grand staircase in front of Graham-Lees? Sure, it looks nice. But I personally think that having the ability to stop for a minute and pick up someone is more important.

All due respect to Mr. Hoogakker, but these reasons sound flimsy. I can’t help but assume that there must’ve been some politics at work.

Possibly the Administration wanted to find a way to eliminate fraternity rides to the quad during pledgeship. Perhaps they wanted to find a way to move the Traveller stop from in front of Graham-Lees. Who knows?

All I do know is that I simply can’t find the reason in it. Removing the loading zone has only created problems, not solved them.