When Junior Nick Guido found himself driving in circles, trying to find a parking space Monday afternoon, he got a bit frustrated. But the 30-minute drive didn’t seem so bad when he learned about the traffic congestion that filled USF earlier in the day.
With about 38,500 students attending all of USF’s campuses on the first day of classes, the growing population affected traffic flow at the Tampa campus, said Mike Klingebiel, spokesman for University Police.
And it didn’t help that Fowler Field along Alumni Drive, which in the past has been available during the first week of classes for overflow parking, was closed.
This year, due to construction of recreational fields, the area could not be used as a temporary parking lot according to a notice released on the listserv from Greg Sylvester, director for Parking and Transportation Services.
“I don’t know how much the closure (of Fowler Field) affected parking,” Klingebiel said. “But it’s definitely a time to plan for your trip to USF.”
Vacant space in front of the Sam and Martha Gibbons Alumni Center and the Lifsey House were made available as a parking lot for commuters.
Klingebiel said officers were needed along Maple and Alumni drives, including Lee Roy Collins Boulevard to assist with traffic direction, which is normal for the first week of classes.
“That’s where we’re getting all of our main traffic from,” Klingebiel said. “We have a larger population, so parking has become more of a premium.”
The number of students at USF campuses has increased by about 1,500 from last year, said Doug Hartnagel, associate vice president for Enrollment Planning and Management.
Sylvester said that Parking and Transportation Services didn’t expect there to be a shortage of parking spaces, considering that HARTline service will transport students and faculty at no charge and should reduce the number of vehicles traveling on campus.
But USF employee Theresa Scott said she doesn’t think HARTline will eliminate traffic congestion.
“It doesn’t run in New Tampa,” Scott said. “I know a lot of college students live out in New Tampa. It’s fine for me. It’s a straight shot to my house.”
Sylvester and Frank Granda, operations coordinator for Parking and Transportation Services did not return messages seeking comment on parking.
However, Klingebiel said students need to be more concerned with their safety during the first week of school.
“With the confusion this time of year students and faculty become a target,” Klingebiel said.
There has been an increase of student commuters offering to transport colleagues to vehicles as students walk through the parking lots, Klingebiel said.
“It’s been a consistent theme at the beginning of each semester that students say ‘Hey, I’ll give you a ride to your car for your parking spot,'” Klingebiel said. “It’s just amazing that people take a ride from a stranger on campus, but they would never do that at the mall.”
Klingebiel added that another issue students need to be aware of is not to leave valuables on the front seats of their vehicles.
“People come to school the first week and load up everything they think they need and leave electronics in plain sight,” Klingebiel said. “This is too tempting for a criminal.”
Klingebiel said there were only a few minor car accidents throughout the day.