Overflowing lots drain patience

Freshman Ismaelle Vixsama would rather park her car at Wal-Mart than deal with the hassle and expense of getting a spot on campus.

Each day this semester,, she has pulled into the retail giant’s parking lot and scurried to catch a bus ride to her classes.

“To pay $100 for a parking spot and not be able to find one is ridiculous,” she said. “I’d rather catch a bus for free.”

With steadily increasing enrollment numbers and this semester’s lot closures, many students share Vixsama’s frustration.

As their gripes grow, USF Parking and Transportation Services must sort out where to put the stream of “commuter” cars flowing into campus.

Manuel Lopez, USF’s parking director, estimates 48,000 staff and students will purchase parking permits by the end of this semester, up 2,000 from this time last year.

Those 48,000 must compete for an estimated 20,500 available spaces.

Lopez said the congestion problem isn’t overselling permits, but students’ desire to park in spaces close to their classes.

“It’s not necessarily that we oversell parking permits; there is parking on campus, just not in front of the buildings that people need to be,” Lopez said.

Lopez said students could easily find available spaces in the Laurel Drive garage, less than 50 percent full on a consistent basis.

But using the Laurel Drive garage or other peripheral parking lots may not be practical for undergraduates who have most of their classes on the east side of campus.

“It’s a little crazy; I have to come 20 minutes early before class. I live (off campus) in Campus Lodge,” said Rachael Saylor, a sophomore international business major. “There is always lots of parking at the business building, but it’s so far, it’s better to find parking in the morning. I park before 10 a.m. at the business building and I don’t move until after 2 p.m. when I am done with classes.”

This semester, the University has made several changes to squeeze the most out of the available

spaces.

The north section of the Magnolia dormitory lot has been closed since Aug. 18 because of construction plans for a new 1,000-bed Magnolia Hall.

To make up for the loss of space, the grass and mulch section on the west side of Magnolia Hall and the lot west of the Library off Leroy Collins Boulevard has provided 500 spaces for non-residents, staff, Magnolia residents and visitors.

In addition, the Laurel Drive garage just south of Fletcher Avenue has provided 1,500 spaces. Another 2,000 spaces are set to open this spring when the lot east of Magnolia Hall on Walnut Drive is finished.

But those openings have come with more closings. This spring, the University is set to break ground on a new Visual and Performing Arts Center, on top of the current 500 space lot located east of the Psychology building.

Parking and Transportation Services announced today that resident permits have sold out, and Lopez said gold-staff passes are also expected to sell out.

Non-resident and staff passes, no matter how many are sold, will not sell out, Lopez said.

Visitor permits will not be sold to students or staff members. Lopez said that this is not a new system for visitor passes, just a rule that was not previously enforced.

Not all students throw their hands up at the inconvenience.

“Parking here is miraculous compared to FSU,” said Cori Cole, a FSU transfer student. “There is more parking here at USF than FSU and the parking system is complex. At FSU it’s either student or faculty parking, not eight different parking passes. At FSU we don’t pay for parking at all, it’s part of the tuition.”

Lopez also said new Bull Runner routes, more advanced than the previous ones, gave students commuting options other than their cars or feet.

The new Green and Gold routes, comparable to the old A and E routes, take students to the core parts of the University by running opposite of one another at all times, he said.

Sophomore Karli Geer said she refused to pay for a parking pass without the guarantee of a spot.

She’s also scrapped her plan to ride the Bull Runner to class.

“I wanted to ride the bus, but it went everywhere but where I needed it to go,” she said. “I (go) to the parking garage and just walk.”

Correspondents Ashley Davidson and Anna Peters contributed to this story. Eric Smithers can be reached at (813) 974-6299 or oraclesmithers

@gmail.com.

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