By Selene San Felice
Starting this fall, on-campus students will only be allowed to park in West garage on or above the second floor ramp. The new rule was included at the bottom of last week’s email reminder to register for parking from Campus Safety.
According to Linda Devine, vice president for Operations and Planning, the change was finalized in late May, but the Campus Safety email is the first notification for students.
The change means that on-campus, or residential students will only have access to the recently expanded Thomas Parking Garage after 5 p.m. on Monday through Friday and during weekends, along with all other UT lots. Commuter students, faculty, staff and visitors will still have access to Thomas at all hours.
Devine says the shift to allowing residential students access to only one garage is meant both to provide predictability and to reduce the stress of finding a space — a problem that became common last year.
“Last year we observed ‘swarming’ type behaviors of some campus drivers,” Devine told The Minaret. “Many started in the Thomas garage and then moved on to the West garage (if they were students). Some faculty and staff moved from parking lot to parking lot, trying to find a space. The comments we took from all groups were that they were spending time trying to find available space, and they were frustrated when it was not available. This option will hopefully help address that concern.”
When asked for an approximate student-to-space ratio predicted for the upcoming school year, Devine could only disclose that the parking analysis made before each semester is complex.
“We track this data on a semesterly basis and compare it to enrollment and parking permits issued. We also do time studies of when vehicles are on campus, based on course schedules,” Devine said. “Besides faculty, staff, and students, we also have to factor in campus guests, special events, community events, delivery and service vehicles, Museum visitors, etc. We used this information, plus feedback we receive as well as direct observation of traffic and parking behaviors, to fine tune options each semester.”
Devine stated that in designating residential students to West, Operations and Planning took into consideration that Thomas was being swarmed due to its closer proximity to dorms and classrooms. She assures that the sense of predictability will assure more satisfaction and that the population density on campus should be moving towards West in terms of classrooms, dorms and co-curricular places.
“Walking longer distances is relative,” Devine said. “UT is pretty compact campus. What we are aiming to do is find some sense of predictability for those that need to move their vehicles daily.”
Grace Maldonado, a junior international business and marketing major, thinks the change should work out smoothly for commuters like her, but parking will always be a fight.
“Whenever I’d even try Thomas [last year] early in the morning for an 8 a.m. it’s already packed,” she said. “Thomas is going to continue to be a fight for parking that’s for sure, every time you leave cars will follow you and try to wait on you until you leave. I feel bad for the residentials because I know it’s a walk from Brevard when I lived there freshman year, but at the same time it’s gonna make my commute hopefully a bit easier.”
Senior dance major Liz Gonzalez disagrees.
“It just seems like a huge traffic jam in the mornings when ALL the commuters are going to the same place. If anything it should be commuter and staff in West and first floor of Thomas, plus the gravel parking,” she said. “I don’t even go into Thomas because it’s small, easy to not see other cars coming, and just always looks crammed for spaces. I guess since West is wider and has a consistent route up and down it’s easier to find a spot and travel through. But I prefer the gravel parking because it’s one level and what you see is what you get. But this is my last semester so I’m just trying to get through whatever new rule they make up until I’m done.”
A general message about school opening with more information on parking is expected to be released next week from Devine’s office.
Selene San Felice can be reached at Selene.email@example.com