Parking improvements provide more options

Students, willing or not, return to campus this week. While undoubtedly hot and indubitably congested, students will begin school and be able to make their way to classes with one less worry on their minds: parking.

According to Jeff Mack, USF director of Auxiliary Services, 1,039 new parking spaces for non-resident students have been added to campus this semester. These spaces reside in the new structure dubbed the Collins Boulevard Parking Garage

“Our primary goal is to finish Garage II and have it ready for students, staff and faculty by the beginning of classes in the fall,” Mack said in mid-July.

According to Mack, the garage houses 1,541 parking spaces. Of those, 489 are designated as displaced. Displaced spaces are allocated for the parking spaces removed by the process of constructing the garage where it stands. The garage was built on Gold Zone 1 parking spaces, so, in essence, those spaces have not been taken away from faculty and staff; they have simply been replaced within the new garage. Visitor parking and disabled spaces are also included in the garage, Mack said.

Good parking news is also coming to students who already live on campus. University rules have changed to designate resident parking to be for “residents only, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.” Due to this provision, non-resident students, staff or visitors may never park in resident lots.

USF Parking and Transportation Services joined with the Residence Hall Association to quell concerns about the number of resident spaces on campus. Their concerns resulted in the new restriction, as well as a $25 increase in the price of resident parking permits. Resident permits will now be sold for $130

“Parking and Transportation are only going to sell as many resident permits as there are resident spots on campus,” Mack said. “This way students will be guaranteed a spot on campus in one of the nearby resident lots.

According to the Parking and Transportation Services Web site, resident permits are sold on a first-come, first-serve basis, with returning students having the first opportunity to buy them. If all permits have been sold, students can be placed on a waiting list or can buy a Park-n-Ride permit, which sells for $35. With this permit they can park in any of the three designated lots for Park-n-Ride and hop on the Bull Runner Shuttle to get to their residence hall

Park-n-Ride permits can also be beneficial for non-resident students, faculty and staff. For those who cannot afford other permits or just simply do not want to pay, Park-n-Ride offers a reduced cost. Also, there is less pressure to find a parking space because there are several available in these lots. Shuttle routes stop at every Park-n-Ride location that can carry a student to their destination or to the necessary transfer area. Some students, however, do not find the shuttles to be very effective.

“I used a Park-n-Ride permit in my first year in college,” said Bradley Cole, a USF student. “The shuttles were always late and sometimes there was barely enough room to ride, so I thought it was a waste of my money.”

Erica Drake, a USF senior majoring in education, disagrees.

“I think the shuttle is a great idea students who live nearby off campus and those that live on campus. It just provides a quicker way to get where you need to go on campus without having to get in your car and drive,” she said. “Even when I did have a non-resident parking permit, I still used the shuttle to get me to classes on the opposite ends of campus. I had classes in the modules on the other side of the engineering building and classes over in BEH. Some days I walked but if it was really hot or raining out, then I would take the shuttle instead of trying to move my car and find a parking space all over (again).”

“Sure you might have to wait a few minutes for a bus, but that’s nothing compared to circling all the parking lots,” she added.

The shuttles offer five different routes, labeled A through E. According to the Parking and Transportation Services Web site, three of the five routes — A, C and D — have become permanent extended routes through a trial last year. The extended routes will run their normal routes until 5:30 p.m., but will continue to offer service until midnight on Monday through Thursday. They will also extend their days of service to the weekend for select hours on Saturday and Sunday. The University has also purchased larger buses that will be used in times of peak demand, said Mack. These buses accommodate up to 50 riders and provide comfort. “With larger buses, we hope to keep the headway (time between shuttle stops) to a minimum,” Mack said. “Currently, we are at eight to 10 minutes, and we hope to reduce even that.

The shuttle has been running for five years, according to Mack, and has surpassed the million-rider mark. At the end of the fiscal year in June, Mack said the shuttle had seen approximately 1,088,000 riders. Mack added that an advantage to the shuttle is that it helps to eliminate automobiles, which keeps parking spaces open for those students who really need it.