Fall quarter at Lower Columbia College began with the sound of horns honking and drivers cussing as they fought over parking spaces.
"It was like Christmas or Black Friday," said Amanda Correia, 23, a criminal justice major. "That's why I choose to take the bus. I don't have to worry about the headache."
Student cars lined 15th Avenue, Maple Street and residential streets all around the campus. Some drivers gave up and parked illegally, such as a car that police ticketed Monday in a bus loading zone by the student center.
Lack of parking has been a student gripe for many years at LCC, where most people try to park in the popular 15th Avenue lot near the bookstore, student center, admissions building and the Rose Center. The other most popular lot is the one on Maple Street, bordered by the Main Building and the LCC library.
But in August, LCC began building its new science building on the Maple Street parking lot, and 182 parking spaces disappeared. Eventually there will be a large parking lot west of the science building, at the now demolished Maple Terrace Apartments. But for now that space is being used for contractor trailers and construction equipment.
"They said (parking) was a nightmare before," said Chris Devine, 22, of Rainier, who's majoring in information technology. "Now it's even worse."
Devine said his mother drove him to campus, but she wanted to wait while he purchased his books Monday morning. All 194 slots in the 15th Avenue lot were taken. She drove into the Triangle Center across the street and waited in her car at WinCo, returning to the 15th Avenue lot several times to see if a space opened up, he said.
"It was like a traffic jam," he said.
"You have to show up before 8 or there's no parking," said Zach Davis, 19, of Rainier, a computer science major.
He rode with his brother Eric Davis, 24, who said he finally found a space in the visitors short-term parking area between Main and the Rose Center. Davis returned at 1:30 p.m. and said the parking situation was "just as bad."
Brother Garth Davis, 22, who's majoring in medicine, said parking was a hassle even during the less-crowded summer quarter. He said most days his family arrives on campus around 6:30 a.m. to guarantee a space, then uses the wireless Internet to do homework.
"Everyone jokes we live here," he said.
Sitting in the parking lot has given them a vantage point for "parking wars" — rear-enders, fender-benders and near misses, Garth Davis said.
"Once or twice a month I see people hit a parked car," he said.
The man in charge of campus parking said other colleges have it worse.
"We have one of the highest student-to-parking ratios," said Nolan Wheeler, LCC vice president of administration. He said part of the problem is that students are "focused on 15th." Lots I and J near the baseball field had empty slots Monday and Tuesday, he said.
He said the college has made these arrangements to ease the parking crunch:
• Two years ago the college created the 144-slot lot J on the old soccer field.
• Regal Cinemas is allowing students to use of 30 slots in the Triangle Cinema lot between 8 a.m. and noon.
• The college has freed up nearly 30 slots in lot I near Head Start that formerly were reserved.
• Students may enter a lottery to win one of 20 reserved spaces in lot B next to the vocational building.
Wheeler asked that students be patient and remember "it's all temporary. As soon as the contractor does not need the new lot for staging, we'll put on the last layer of asphalt and open it up."