TPS Addresses Parking Problems with New Programs

As students navigate less available campus parking due to ongoing construction projects, the University of Central Oklahoma Transportation and Parking Services has begun to introduce several measures to relieve the parking congestion.

Construction on the new STEM Teaching and Research Center, the Hamilton Field House annex, the new south wing of the College of Liberal Arts and the new dining center has placed parking on campus at a ratio of approximately 2.7 students per parking space, according to Josh Stone, director of Parking and Transportation Services.

“The elimination of parking spaces due to buildings going up has certainly impacted the department in recent years,” Stone said. “We pride ourselves on providing as low cost parking as we can with the best service, and I’m proud to say I believe we have accomplished that to date.”

For faculty, staff and students living on campus, TPS will be starting a new pilot program for short-term parking spaces later this semester. The program will provide these drivers with parking spaces that will be available for short periods of time, such as for delivering groceries to student dorms.

These spaces would also provide adjunct professors and other part-time staff the opportunity for quick parking, as these employees do not work typical 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. positions, according to Stone.

“Housing & Dining has given us feedback in recent years that housing students want the ability to carry groceries and other heavy items to their rooms more conveniently,” Stone said. “Faculty leadership has expressed a desire for us to provide adjunct faculty more options when it comes to parking.”

While TPS is still in the process of working out the details for when the project is rolled out later this semester, Stone said that the new lots that were designated for the pilot program would not detract for currently available multi-permit and commuter spaces.

To create additional parking, TPS also announced that they would add additional parallel parking spaces to Main Street, reducing the road from four lanes to two and increasing commuter parking by approximately 33 spaces.

An additional parking area, designated as an emergency lot, was also opened last Monday by Lot 14 near the Nigh University Center as an overflow parking lot. The additional space will only open when all current lots are at capacity, according to Stone.

“Transportation & Parking Services believes these solutions will provide relief to the campus parking congestion,” Stone said. “We will continue to keep a close eye on parking occupancy in the coming weeks and will make additional adjustments as needed.”

Over the first two weeks of the semester, students took to the department’s social media pages on Twitter and Facebook to express concern and frustration with the parking on campus.

Student comments have ranged from concerns over the university’s policy of selling more parking permits than available parking spaces, to concerns on why the university has yet to construct a parking garage, according to Stone.

“People want to vent and Twitter is a great platform to do that on,” Stone said. “I think we try to use that constructively to see what people’s biggest gripe is, and then we try to solve it as best we can.”

As UCO utilizes the hunting license parking model of parking, Stone said that the model means that students are purchasing the right to hunt for a parking space rather than directly purchasing designated parking spaces.

“The reason this model is popular is that at the time, student enrollment was lower and there was an abundance of space,” Stone said. “In the past 10 to 15 years, this trend has reversed as universities try to keep up with the latest and greatest and keep up with the needs of their state.”

While this is the model that the university currently uses, Stone said the department has been considering a change from hunting license to zonal.

Under a zonal model, the parking system would sell a select number to ensure that students would have available slots, while also focusing on available parking alternatives such as bus routes and the Bum-a-Bike program.

“We’re slowly moving in that direction,” Stone said. “A model change like that is very complicated; it takes a lot of behind the scenes work and seeing exactly how this could stand to benefit the university.”

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