Students on Monday night had the option to voice their concerns and opinions on one of campus’ most consistently frustrating issues.
You guessed it: parking.
University Relations Committee (URC), part of Student Government Senate organized a “Parking Problems Town Hall Meeting”, the first of its kind on campus. About 40 students packed into the basement of the Phyllis P. Marshall Center to attend.
They asked questions and raised concerns about a broad variety of parking and traffic-related issues, from the Bull-Runner and Greek Village parking to new parking garages and parking lot security.
A four-person panel, consisting of representatives from Parking and Transportation Services, Student Affairs, Student Government Supreme Court and University Police, took questions for about 90 minutes. However, it was Manuel Lopez, Director of Parking and Transportation Services, who fielded most of the questions.
Among the most debated was parking in the Greek Village. Several students complained that the lack of parking had resulted in many non-resident Greek members receiving citations during chapter meetings. Another student, also blaming a lack of parking spaces, complained that non-resident Greek members take resident spots, leaving Greek residents with nowhere to park.
Dean of Students Kevin Banks, representing Student Affairs, suggested Greek leaders communicate better so non-residents don’t park in resident spots.
Lopez, who said he has been meeting with Greek leadership concerning parking, admitted that the Greek Village is tight, offering advice that probably didn’t satisfy the students.
“The best thing I can tell you is the shuttle,” Lopez said, referring to the Bull-Shuttle, a daily service available to all students, consisting of five routes all over the campus and surrounding areas. “We are looking at the grass area behind the (Greek) Village, but it’s a water runoff area, so it’s not as easy you think.”
But the Bull-Runner seems to have its own issues.
“When you’re waiting on the Bull-Runner,” a student said. “You’re waiting on a train that’s never going to come. You never know exactly when to be picked up and when you’ll be dropped off.”
The student wondered why there wasn’t a set schedule.
“With the limited amount of buses we have,” Lopez said. “It would be impossible to make a schedule.”
According to Lopez, shuttles should be anywhere from eight to 10 minutes apart, but because of traffic and the number of stops that need to be made, shuttle times can be somewhat unpredictable.
“It’s not always perfect, but we’ll keep looking at it and improving it,” Lopez said.
Another student asked why the Bull-Runner has to stop at every stop, suggesting that there should be routes linking only campus hot spots such as the Library and Marshall Center.
Lopez again cited lack of buses, but said the idea was “worth exploring.” As of now, shuttles must stop at any stop where a student is waiting to be picked up or when a student wants off.
A few students asked about the safety and security of the parking lots, with one mentioning last semester’s on-campus shooting at a parking lot near Magnolia.
“All we can really do is a 24-hour patrol,” Sergeant Frank Wassenberg said. “It’s hard to prevent thefts because they can happen so fast.”
When the subject of UP’s new anti-drunk driving initiative came up, one Greek student had a pointed question.
“Is there any reason the DUI checkpoints are across from the Greek Village?” she asked.
Of the three on-campus checkpoints this semester, at least two were held near the Greek Village.
“We are not targeting any specific group,” Wassenberg said.
The subject of upcoming parking garages was briefly discussed. According to Lopez, a third parking garage near the music and theater facilities is scheduled to open later this year and construction of a fourth near the Engineering building should begin sometime next year.
Kyle Neal, URC chairman, said that while he was a bit disappointed with the turnout, he was generally pleased with the way things went.
“These types of things are important for students,” he said.
Neal said that he hopes to plan a similar forum concerning tuition sometime next semester.