Making room for residents, commuters

As USF evolves into a major university, changes must be continually made to keep up with the increase in the number of students and the demand that places on the campus.

Moving into a new academic year, the two issues of residence life and parking surface again. In response to each of these, the university has built more residence halls and made changes to the shuttle bus system to improve student living and traffic flow on campus.

One new addition this school year is the opening of the Magnolia Apartments. Tom Kane, director of Residence Services, said while a few of the apartment buildings may be used as extra beds for freshman and undergraduate student overflow, Magnolia is intended for nontraditional students and upperclassmen.

Located on Alumni Drive near the College of Engineering, Magnolia is a group of buildings with amenities such as a children?s playground and beach volleyball court. Kane said one of the buildings has family-style apartments, containing 12 units.

Magnolia has added 488 new beds to the campus, Kane said.

?We have 860 more beds this year than last year,? he said. ?We?re going to open pretty close to full.?

Kane said the increase was needed.

Last year, Residence Services was forced to place 180 students in Fontana Hall due to lack of space.

In 1997, there were 2,300 beds on campus. As of this August, he said, there will be 3,800.

In comparison, Florida State University has 4,000 beds and the University of Florida has nearly 7,000.

Kane said plans call for 5,000 beds on USF?s campus by 2007. Part of the plan includes Greek housing. To make way for the project, the Village will be torn down by 2003.

Other parts of the Village will be demolished in subsequent years, Kane said.

Renovations will be carried out on older, existing residence halls, Kane said.

?Our plans call for in May 2003 to close Beta for one year,? he said.

While the basic building structure will look the same, Kane said, the inside will be completely redone.

?It?ll look like a completely new building,? he said.

With these new buildings brings a concern for parking.

?Any building we do, we have to take that into account,? Kane said. ?(Construction) cuts down on the number of people that have a place to park.?

Several of the new halls have been built in areas that were previously parking lots. In particular are the Holly Apartments, which, when construction began in 1999, took up two existing residence parking lots.

Greg Sylvester, director for Parking Services, said while there will be no major changes to parking this fall, there will be new parking maps circulated to aid students in parking on campus.

Sylvester said the new maps are intended to show students and faculty changes and to eliminate confusion about which lots are appropriate for parking.

In recent years, during the first week of classes when there is an influx of cars on campus, overflow lots were used. Sylvester said the overflow lots will be ready again for use this year, which will be located on Fowler Field.

Sylvester said Parking Services spent the summer trying to learn and improve their system.

?We?ve been going to orientations all summer,? he said. ?The Web site has been revamped. We?ve got a lot more information on there.?

The information on the site includes detailed maps of both parking and shuttle routes.

Sylvester said while parking may not be in the best location, it?s important to know where parking can be found, adding that this campus ?has never run out of spaces.?

Sylvester said students should consider their options, such as the shuttle bus service, which gives students access to the center of campus from parking lots that are further away, he said.

?If you know you can park and use the shuttle to get around, it will alleviate some of the congestion on campus,? he said.

Sylvester said Parking Services purchased new vehicles, bringing the total to 14 and streamlined routes to make wait times shorter.

New structures have also been erected at the stops that give students more shelter from the weather and a more comfortable place to wait for the shuttle, he said.

?You should be able to expect a shuttle every 10 minutes,? Sylvester said.

Another added feature is that the Route D now goes to the Hartline transit depot located west of Bruce B. Downs Boulevard. Sylvester said he hopes this will allow people who use Hartline an easier way to get to campus.

?Now they can hop the shuttle bus and come directly into campus,? he said.

Along with the new vehicles, Parking Services also purchased a new message board that will be used to aid motorists, he said. This board will be used to display warnings about closed lots and other such traffic issues. Sylvester said he hopes to have an entire system of message boards in the future.

?Eventually, my plan is to have some electronic messaging,? he said.

Sylvester said another major change is the roadwork project to make Maple Drive four lanes from East Holly Drive to Alumni Drive and to add better pedestrian walkways.

?It?ll be a better situation for where vehicle and pedestrian traffic come into contact,? he said.

While construction on the project was intended to be completed in the summer, it won?t complete until September, he said, which could create a traffic concern.

?I?m hoping not,? Sylvester said.

?We?re certainly going to keep an eye on it.?

Contact Robert Brannon