Student frustration builds over campus parking

On Monday, 20 parking spots were barricaded off in the Leroy Collins Garage for hours, causing one ramp to become exit only, which led to long lines of frustrated drivers. ORACLE PHOTO/JACKIE BENITEZ

Each year, the first week of classes has students stressed over not only the impending school year, but also the struggle to find parking partly due to USF selling nearly double the amount of permits than available student spaces.

Although not a new problem, it is a recurring one that annually has students up in arms. 

The thought is that students will not be on campus all at one time, but for those scrambling to find a spot, it does little to ease frustration.

USF has a total of 20,824 parking spaces on campus, according to Parking and Transportation Services. Out of those, 11,904 are reserved for the “S” permits. However, the university sold 21,064 combined spring 2016 and annual 2015/2016 "S" permits.

Numbers for the current year are not yet available.

According to a study done by USF Parking and Transportation Services, at peak times — Tuesday afternoons — the campus lots reach a high of 84 percent capacity, with the average hovering around 77 percent.

This includes faculty lots as well as lots in remote areas of campus.

According to Assistant Director of Communications Aaron Nichols, there are a “sufficient” number of spaces on campus, but not always in the place on campus that students desire.

Chevanese Spence, a sophomore in pre-nursing, and Devonee Salmon, a senior majoring in behavioral health care, experienced the parking struggle Tuesday morning when searching for their class.

“It was about 30 minutes of driving around at 10:30,” Spence said. “We had an 11 a.m. class.”

She advised students to, “Come early. You can always wait in the parking lot for someone to come out. If I see someone coming out and they look like they’re going to their car, then I’ll follow them and hope to get their spot.”

The demand for improved parking on campus has been ongoing for years and this is certainly not an isolated issue at just USF, but for students scouring the campus for spots, that does little to calm their frustration.

“I think we should get at least another parking garage,” Salmon said. “They need more parking available for us… I’ve seen people make their own parking spots, like on the side of the curb. We saw that today near public health.”

The first week of classes leads to the most parking issues due to mandatory first-day attendance.

Despite claims of sufficient parking, peak times often lead to students searching aimlessly for a spot in hopes of making it to class on time.

On Monday, 20 parking spots were barricaded off in the Leroy Collins Garage for hours, causing one ramp to become exit only, which led to long lines of frustrated drivers.

The cause of the blockage was a maintenance crew performing pressure washing to the area, according to Nichols. However, the barricades remained hours after the pressure washing was completed, making those spots unavailable to students.

Chris Griffin, USF’s student body president, says Student Government (SG) is dedicated to improving parking by introducing a device, which will hopefully be implemented next summer. The new program will monitor how many parking spots are available in each location.

“It’s helpful to know if there is a spot in here for me or not,” said Griffin. “When you drive now, you can spend half an hour driving up a parking garage to just find there are no spots so you go back down and find a new parking garage.”

The new mechanism will help “save the students a lot of time,” according to Griffin. The plan is to implement the device in stages starting with one parking garage and the lots by the library due to increased traffic in those areas.

While new parking garages are part of the USF campus master plan, according to Nichols, their creation is entirely reliant on funding and the university has made no promises that garage construction will begin any time soon.

SG is also prepared to tackle the complaints regarding parking citations. The new initiative will allow those who receive their first parking citation over a simple issue like parking in the wrong section or over the line to have the option of attending a parking class to have the fee waived.

Griffin also said students would be able to purchase parking permits through Oasis come spring, which will allow financial aid to be used for the purchase.