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(WBIR-Knoxville) The University of Tennessee is only a couple weeks into the school year, but some students say they have already missed class because they cannot find parking.

Some commuter students said they spend anywhere from one to two hours trying to find a space.

UT Sophomore Chantel Harris started a petition on MoveOn.org in hopes of gaining more commuter spaces. As of Wednesday night, the petition had more than 630 signatures.

"There's more freshman than have ever come to UT before this year so we need more parking," Harris said.

UT Senior Associate Vice Chancellor for Finance and Administration Jeff Maples said it is common for parking to be scarce at first.

"Parking first two, three weeks of school every year is always a challenge because you've got so many people here starting out. You've got extra employees here gearing up for the start of school," said Maples in a phone interview.

According to Maples, the university has more commuter parking spaces this year than last at 5,400. There are 3,744 non-commuter parking spaces.

"It's been worse this year but talking to other alumni it's been an ongoing problem," said Taylor Dotson, a fifth year student at UT.

Dotson commutes from Cleveland to UT. She spends an hour and a half on her commute and sometimes another hour and a half trying to find parking and has missed class because of it. She spent $182 on a commuter parking permit.

"To pay so much for parking spaces and there's no guarantee we can even get to class," she said.

Commuters lost parking on Lake Avenue when the new Fred D. Brown Jr. Residence Hall opened.

"There was a perception that we took commuter parking away. But what we did is go into White Avenue garage and convert a lot of non-commuter spaces into commuter," Maples said.

One parking space on campus serves 1.8 students; Maples said that is standard.

"We talk about how bad it is and we just really want to do something about it," said Harris, who plans to show the petition to university officials.

According to Maples, UT staff assessed campus parking late last week. They converted about 100 more spaces to commuter parking, temporarily.

Busiest times are usually 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday.

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