Resident parking a tight squeeze for some

Parking is always a nightmare the first couple of weeks on campus, but this semester, it’s more complicated than ever.

“With the rain and everything, some construction projects got behind, which has affected the parking situation,” said Greg Sylvester, director of Parking and Transportation Services.

Currently, there are about 17,500 spaces on campus, which are split up into residents, non-residents, staff and visitors. Residents are divided into the following categories: Fontana, Greek housing, Magnolia residence halls and general residence hall parking.

The number of resident parking permits available for sale, with the exception of Magnolia, are capped based on spaces available in the resident areas. Sylvester said these permits are first sold to returning students, and remaining permits are then sold on a first come, first serve basis. When the cap is reached, the only remaining option is a Park-N-Ride permit.

Occupants of Holly Apartments, Maple Suites and other residence halls on the Tampa Campus are considered general resident students for parking purposes. Sylvester added that there are six resident-only lots available to residents, as well as four mixed-used lots. Lot 35 has replaced lot 5D as one of the resident-only lots due to the construction of the new Maple housing complex.

Students in the dorms qualify for red resident permits, Garage Level 6 permits and Park-n-Ride permits. As of Wednesday, there were 12 red permits available. Garage Level 6 has been sold out since before the first week of school, but sometimes become available due to students switching them for regular Resident permits, Sylvester said.

According to Sylvester many residents are squeezing into the temporary lots close to Lot 13 in front of the Andros Center. He added that the largest problem is that students had been tampering with the lots by moving the wheel stops.

“That area is so close to a marshy area that if people move them, we can end up with cars in the swamp,” Sylvester said.

Sylvester said the temporary lots, which were recently filled to fix a mud problem, may be dismantled if the tampering continues. Students who are parking in the temporary lots are reminded that Lots 16 and 35 are available to them and are currently being underutilized. Students parking in Lot 16 are asked to use the constructed path and not to walk on Fletcher Avenue, he said. Students are also reminded that in Lot 17B there is only one row of parking available to them.

Sylvester said these reminders are offered as guidance to avoid frustration, citations and towing. Illegal street parking has become popular on Holly Drive, most of it occurring at night, though it is happening during the day as well. The curbs are marked as a tow-away zones, which Sylvester said will be “aggressively enforced” since it is a safety issue and negatively impacts emergency vehicle access, the Bull Runner system and general traffic flow.

Another area subject to the same penalty is the Greek Village. Problems of parking in lot drive lanes and around the circle in front of the Village have arisen. Sylvester said this could be due to the fact that the Greek Village was shorted 15 spaces when it was constructed. Facilities and Planning is currently looking into this, he said.

“People need to bear with us for a little bit,” Sylvester said.

The newly constructed Village prompted the school to create the Greek housing parking permit. These permits to park in and around the Greek Village have been sold out since Aug. 22. The only permits currently left for occupants of Greek housing are Park-n-Ride permits. However, a small number of Greek housing permits were released Friday and allowed residents in the Greek Village to park on the dirt area just north of current parking.

“We’re only allowing Greeks to park there,” Sylvester said. “Another lot will be built there around November.”

In the meantime, cars that are parked and are blocking traffic are susceptible to a $30 fine. The same fine applies to cars parked out of an assigned area, which is becoming a problem with Magnolia residents.

Lot 24 next to the Magnolia apartments has a row designated for Magnolia residents, with the rest of the lot reserved for non-resident students, staff and visitors. Magnolia residents, who along with the Lot 24 space have options in one Magnolia-only lot and one mixed lot, are parking anywhere in Lot 24, Sylvester said. These residents will be issued citations after a first-time warning. Though there is no cap on Magnolia permits, occupants of Magnolia apartments may also purchase Park-n-Ride permits.

Park-n-Ride Lot 43 may be the only option for occupants of Fontana Hall, even with a Fontana permit.

Sylvester said five spaces at Fontana Hall are currently underwater, so students with a Fontana permit, which allows parking on the Fontana property only, may be forced to park across the street. The Fontana permit sold out Aug. 20, leaving Park-n-Ride as the only option for occupants who have not yet purchased a permit.

Although it’s not the sole option, Park-n-Ride is an often-suggested alternative for non-resident students and green staff, Sylvester said. Although there is no cap on the amount of permits sold, the problem arises in trying to find a space. There are two Park-n-Ride Lots, offering the Bull Runner Service as an alternative to frustration, as well.

The 2003 fiscal year boasted a 400 percent increase in ridership for the Bull Runner Service over a three-year period. The increase was from 179,000 to 915,000. Over 40,000 people rode the Bull Runner in the first week of classes, with 8,200 of them on the first day alone.

“Its pretty phenomenal,” Sylvester said of the numbers.

The Bull Runner Service has been expanded this fall. Bull Runner Extended (BRX) routes A, C and D now operate until midnight Monday thru Thursday. A new weekend service on the same routes, which saw over 700 people in its first weekend, is being piloted with Saturday hours from noon — 4:30 p.m. and Sunday hours from 2:30 p.m. — 9:30 p.m. Buses come every 10 minutes.