University implements parking changes

Residential students are now getting a little extra exercise in their daily routines, as changes in parking put many on foot.

Beginning March 1, five lots located in the front of campus, between Parker Academic Center and the Meyer Christian Studies Building, have been designated for use only by students, faculty and staff  who commute to the school each day.

Student vehicles are now identified by gold decals which are distributed at the police station.

Chief of Police Gary Sargent said a recent survey showed that in one hour’s time, a third of students parked in the academic lots lived on campus, making open spaces a rare commodity.

“We had a lot of students living on campus driving to class. We had that mentality and it really made it difficult for our commuter students who were coming on campus and couldn’t find any place to park,” he said. “That really led to this transition to commuter parking.”

The new lots have opened up about 300 to 400 spots for the 1,500 commuters who attend the university, and Sargent said the result has been an alleviation in the crowds that previously congested parking areas.

“Until we made this change to commuter parking, these lots were at capacity most of the day, and now they’re not,” he said.

More changes in parking have come as a result of lot closures in preparation for construction.

King Street and the lot behind Presser Hall are now fenced off so work can begin on the new student union building and stadium, which are set to open in the fall of 2013.

Sargent said this is all part of the transition that comes with the projects taking place at the university.

“As we continue to develop and implement the master plan, all parking on the interior campus will eventually go away, so everyone will be walking from point A to point B to get to their classes. Recognize that our environment is changing.”

Senior Vice President for Campus Planning and Support Services Edd Martin urges students to be patient, as some inconveniences now will be beneficial in the future once all of the new buildings are completed.

“I think that they will be very pleased with the outcome once we get there,” he said. “We’re going to transform this campus in a relatively short amount of time. Patience is the best thing.”

All of the changes are moving the university toward the ultimate goal of becoming a pedestrian campus.

Martin said the transition is a result of safety concerns as the campus continues to grow and become more crowded.

“The overall game plan is to move parking from the interior of the campus to the perimeter of campus, and that’s a safety issue as much as anything,” he said. “Somebody’s going to get hurt if we don’t stop cars and pedestrians from competing for the same space.”

Though the changes are still new, Sargent said he has seen a positive outcome, as well as a decrease in parking citations.

“I was really anticipating more problems than I’ve seen thus far,” he said. “Though we’ve pushed cars out of the core of campus, there’s been more than enough parking. We haven’t encountered the problems we thought we would.”

While some parking has been eliminated, the university is working to ease the transition for students by providing maps online and increasing transportation options.

A 32-passenger shuttle started servicing students when classes resumed after spring break, running a route that now begins each morning at Farris Hall and makes stops at Independence Village and academic halls.

“(The shuttle) shows that they’re trying to think about people that can’t walk to class or drive,” senior exercise sport science major Amber Sherman said.

Though ridership is not as high yet as expected, the shuttle will continue through the semester as a temporary option to gauge whether public transportation would benefit the campus.

“We felt like it really needed some time to build up and see how effective it’s going to be,” Sargent said.

In addition, new lots closer to residential areas are well under way. Though the rainy weather has put a slight delay in the building process, parking should become available on University Drive, as well as behind McLane Hall in the near future.

Sargent said that these additions will further improve the situation, continuing into the fall.

“There’s going to be more than enough spaces to address the needs of our residential students, as well as our commuter students,” he said. “It will only improve from this point forward.”

 

Author: JC Jones

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