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Transportation reps suggest parking alternatives

Parking on campus is among the first things incoming students recognize as a problem. The idea of parking itself seems to be the problem to begin with. Eliminate parking and you eliminate the problem.

At least that’s what representatives of the Center for Urban Transportation Research (CUTR) and the Parking and Transportation Services (PTS) believe.

To reduce the stress associated with on-campus traffic and parking, PTS and CUTR try to encourage alternative modes of transportation besides driving to alleviate the problem of even having to park on campus.

“We should be looking at alternative forms of transportation and not encouraging the continued use of automobile as the main way to get to campus,” said Chris Hagelin, research associate at CUTR. “The cost of building (more) parking garages is astronomical, and a portion of that money could be used for promoting other forms of transportation.”

The main way in which USF and PTS try to promote the use of alternative methods of transportation is by implementing the Bull Runner shuttle system. According to Manuel Lopez, director of PTS, the Bull Runner is one thing he would like to see utilized more on campus.

“We’re presently under 50 percent capacity on the shuttle,” he said. “I would say the No. 1 thing (to alleviate parking problems would be) for people to start using the shuttle more.”

Lopez said he feels part of the reason why more students do not use the shuttle is the perception that it is more time consuming.

“Once people try it, they like it. It’s just a matter of getting them to take that first step and taking the shuttle (for) the first time,” he said.

He said he thinks that waiting 10-15 minutes for a shuttle is less of a hassle than driving around a parking lot for 30 minutes.

Hagelin said he thinks that improving campus transit as well as funding bicycle and pedestrian safety programs would get fewer students to drive on campus.

“With the amount of students that live close by the University, biking and walking should be a very attractive alternative,” he said. “I think what we need to do is improve the safety conditions and invest in expanding the Bull Runner shuttle to bring more students to campus who live in close proximity.”

To promote bicycling, Lopez said that USF will be installing more bike loops on campus, as well as bike lids – which shield bikes from extreme weather conditions – at the shuttle stops and possibly at other locations as well.

Another way CUTR is trying to fight traffic congestion on campus is by promoting carpooling. It is in the process of finalizing a database for people to match their schedules with others and create a carpool.

“If you have a certain schedule and you’re coming from a certain area, you can get online and find others that use the same schedule, contact them and begin to carpool,” Lopez said.

USF will also be working with Zipcar to bring a fleet of rental vehicles right onto campus. According to its Web site, Zipcar loans out cars ranging from Mini Coopers to pick-up trucks for as little as an hour at a time. The rental includes the car, reserved parking and insurance, and anyone over 21 with a valid driver’s license can apply. Students without a car would be able to use these vehicles for anything from shopping to dining out.

“It’s like having a car but without having to own it,” Lopez said.

But for the students who do end up parking on campus, Lopez said that walking, rather than driving, between on-campus destinations would help reduce stress for everyone. But he said the best way to alleviate parking stress seems to be by not driving to school at all.

“If we can keep (students) from driving on campus to begin with, that’s even better,” Lopez said.