Underused parking garage available for students

Despite students constantly complaining about the lack of available parking spaces on campus, one parking garage has an abundance of unfilled student spaces.

Manuel Lopez, director of Parking and Transportation Services, said he has circled around Lot 9C — located on the corner of Holly and  Laurel drives — and watched people drive right past the Laurel Drive parking garage.

“I would stop them and tell them that they can park there,” he said. “Some would use it, but the majority would just keep driving.”

The Laurel Garage, adjacent to the Carol and Frank Morsani Center for Advanced Health Care, has six levels with four types of parking spaces.

These include 1,200 student spaces, Lopez said. However, about 900 of those remain unused on a daily basis.

The garage also contains reserved spaces, about 100 Gold Zone spaces and 205 spaces on the first floor for USF Health patients, said Joseph Jackson, director of managed care and clinical facilities for USF Health.

Spaces on the first floor of the garage were purchased, painted and set aside in August, he said.

“The spaces are paid for by USF Health at the standard reserved rate of $902 per space to the USF Parking and Transportation Services Department,” Jackson said.

USF Health spends nearly $185,000 annually to reserve the floor for self-parking or valet parking services for patients, he said.

“We pay what everybody else pays,” Jackson said.

Jackson said the University cannot afford to build a parking garage for only one type of permit.

“Garages are built for everybody,” he said. “X number have to be available for students, and so many have to be sold reserve.”

However, students aren’t using the Laurel Garage spots.

Lopez said Parking Services has attempted to generate awareness of the available student spaces in several ways.

“We have put ads in the Oracle, displayed messages on our Web site, as well as frames in the lots surrounding (the garage),” Lopez said. “I even meet with Student Government frequently in an effort to make students aware.”

However, despite Lopez’s efforts, Student Body Vice President Thomas King said he believes students do not park in the Laurel Drive garage because it is not close to most of the academic buildings.

“The point that I’ve really learned about students is that they prefer to park as close as possible,” King said.

However, students who do park there could take the Bull Runner, he said.

The next garage, which may be more convenient for students, will be built across the street from the Business Administration building in the lot between the Sun Dome and Campus Recreation building, King said.

“It’s going to feature food and retail space on the first floor for students,” he said. “It’s in the University’s five-year plan.”