Gold Zone parking spaces leave empty answers

It’s a scenario with which many students are familiar. An empty parking space is spotted in a crowded garage, only to discover that it’s reserved for Gold Zone (GZ) permit holders.

GZ permits, which cost $429, in addition to tax, can only be purchased by USF faculty and staff members for specific parking lots for the year. Permit holders pay $255 more than non-resident students and can only park in GZ parking spots in the lot specified by their permit.

Some students, such as Mallory Pirolozzi, are asking whether the number of spots allocated to GZ permits are necessary.

Pirolozzi, a senior majoring in biomedical sciences, parks on campus with a non-resident student (S) permit and said she doesn’t understand why there are so many empty GZ spaces in the Leroy Collins Garage, where she usually parks.

“It’s never full when I drive by,” she said. “If they are not being bought and are not full, I think it’s not fair.”

Frank Granda, operations manager for Parking and Transportation Services (PATS), said he’s aware of the dearth of GZ spaces in the garage.

There are 341 GZ1 – the GZ permit number designated to the Collins Garage – spots available, but he said only 321 permits were sold this semester.

A total of 1,423 GZ permits were sold this semester for the 1,410 GZ available parking spaces on campus, and there are 1,132 spots in the Collins garage to be shared among all students, motorcycle and disabled permits. This semester, 7,555 students purchased permits.

Granda said the extra GZ spots are used for visitor parking when special events are held on campus, such as the Interdisciplinary Science Building ribbon cutting ceremony.

“Depending on the size of the event, rather than displace students in the upper levels (of the parking garages), we look at the time it’s going to be occurring, the dates and everything (and) we will do the special event parking in those Gold Zone spaces so we don’t impact the larger groups,” he said.

He said PATS has decreased the number of GZ spaces in the Collins Garage on three occasions over the past four years, creating more S parking spaces.

Lorraine Caccavale, manager of fiscal and business administration for PATS, said many of the vacant spaces in the Leroy Collins Garage are due to administrators moving from the Administration building to the Kiran C. Patel Center for Global Solutions in January.

However, there are other lots on campus, she said, where students may be more likely to find parking. The GZ33 lot, located near the medical buildings on campus, saw a reduction in GZ permits this semester.

“We have determined we could take some of the gold spaces away over there to fill a need for daily visitors, and we increased student parking over there,” she said. “Each lot is different, based on their location and the constituents they serve.”

Caccavale said lots 18 and 20, located near the Federal Credit Union, and the Laurel Parking Garage, located near the Carol and Frank Morsani Center for Advanced Health Care, are areas students can turn to if they can’t find a spot at their preferred location. At any given time, she said, there are at least 1,000 open S spots available on campus.

Forty-one other lots around campus have been adjusted to allow multiple permits to use a spot.

Caccavale said 10 PATS employees drive through parking lots every week looking for problems. Spots are changed throughout the semester based on identified problems.

“We do lot counts and observations,” she said. “We constantly are looking at trying to have the best utilization of the lots as possible.”

If an S permit holder parks in a GZ parking space, the driver receives one warning per academic year and a $30 citation upon a second offense. However, Caccavale said PATS is “pretty open” to taking suggestions from students and answering questions.

“If they have a problem, if they get a citation or they don’t understand something, don’t throw the citation in the glove compartment,” she said. “Either call us or post a question (on the PATS website). We are here to help you. We don’t want your money, we want you to park correctly with a parking pass, whatever one you can afford.”