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So far, new garage mostly vacant

Few students and staff have used USF’s third parking garage since its opening Monday, but Director of Parking and Transportation Services Manuel Lopez said he expects that to change.

“It’s open, it’s ready to go,” Lopez said of the new garage located near the Parking and Transportation Services’ office on Holly and Laurel drives. “It hasn’t been used much. (Monday); we had like six students park in there. It wasn’t a big number student-wise either on (Tuesday).”

Lopez said Parking and Transportation Services has placed signs near the parking lot immediately across from the new garage and in front of the Psychology and Communications Sciences and Disorders building that the garage is open, but said he wasn’t worried about it filling up soon.

“The word will start spreading around about it, and they’ll find it and starting using it,” he said.

According to Lopez, use of the new garage would most likely be minimal until January or February.

“You’ve got to remember we’re in the really slow time of year,” Lopez said. ” And because people by now have already gotten in a routine where they park in the same place, we don’t expect people to use it until next semester when the new schedules and new classes give people new routines.”

The Laurel garage contains 1,490 spaces. Of those, 750 have been designated for student use. The remaining number of spaces, excluding a few designated for disabled parking, will be designated exclusively to reserve spaces. So far, Lopez said the Center for Advanced Health Care has pledged 200 reserve spaces to be used after its expected completion in early spring 2008.

As of 3 p.m. on Monday, not one car was parked in a reserve space.

However, Lopez said the allocation of spaces could fluctuate as the University begins construction on a new fine arts building and the health care center.

“When construction on the (fine arts) building happens, Lot C will be gone. I know for sure (the Laurel garage) will be used then as more construction gets underway.”

The Laurel garage netted about 1,000 available parking spaces, (its construction took away about 500 spaces as it was also built on top of a surface lot), putting the total amount of parking spaces on campus close to 20,000.

Parking and Transportation Services is encouraging USF faculty and staff to purchase reserved space as soon as possible, before construction in the area eats up surrounding surface parking lots in August 2007.

“The whole point (of the garage) was to anticipate all that need, so when those lots close for demolition, we already have the need for when that lot closes down.”

The total cost of the garage is $16 million. Over 20 years, the cost would be close to $22.4 million.

The price for annual student permits is $126. Reserve permits are $744. Next year, prices for student permits may go up to $151. Reserve permits may also be raised to $893.

The University’s Board of Trustees will have to make a final decision on an overall increase of 20 percent on all permits sometime toward the end of the spring semester.

The University is preparing to build Garage IV ($18 million) to offset traffic around an additional 1,000-bed residence hall near Magnolia Apartments. The garage is expected to be an eight-floor facility containing 2,000 spaces. Administrators are also looking at the location of a fifth garage.

When asked when the new garage could be considered a successful addition to the range of available parking on campus, Lopez said it’s still too early to tell.

“I could easily assume that by saying if the garage is not completely full, it’s a success because obviously we’ve provided enough parking,” he said. “If it were completely full, obviously, there would be a lot of need there.”

However, there are still a lot of variables when considering scheduled construction in the area and people’s attitudes and routines toward parking on campus, Lopez said.