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Student parking frustration grows, some blame PATS

Students have expressed concerns about PATS vehicles occupying parking spaces in S parking permit spots. SPECIAL TO THE ORACLE

Complaints about parking and the need for more spaces on campus can frequently be heard from students at the beginning of the semester.

However, this year some students are pointing their fingers at Parking and Transportation Services (PATS) in a new way.  

Abhishek Kandukuru, a sophomore majoring in biomedical sciences, said he noticed PATS vehicles taking up spaces in the LeRoy Collins parking garage in spaces reserved for those students with S parking permits. 

But a PATS spokesman said he was unaware of a problem and that employees in golf carts park in specially designated spots before stopping in an “S” or “E” space, with limited exceptions.

“If there is a state parking spot, a golf cart spot or even a no-parking area where the employee can safely park the cart, they are going to do that before they park in a normal designated S or E parking spot,” said Aaron Nichols, assistant director of communications for the Office of Administrative Services.

Still, parking frustrations for students haven’t yet subsided five weeks into the fall semester.

“The money we put into parking should be used to increase the accessibility of parking, especially close to our classes,” said Kandukuru.

According to the PATS website, S permits cost $91 for one semester or $183 for the entire year. 

“I believe that students are getting robbed when we have class and we can’t find parking spots, so we park in places such as GZ and E lots and we get ticketed because we’re running late,” Kandukuru said.

Because of parking availability, many students leave for class long before they need to be on campus. Kandukuru said he leaves his apartment two hours in advance, at the latest one hour and 15 minutes ahead of his classes starting.

Elizabeth Combs, a sophomore majoring in health sciences, said that she spent 45 minutes last week trying to find parking in various S permit lots.

“I found a few spaces I couldn’t take because someone didn’t have the correct pass and were parking where they weren’t supposed to,” Combs said.

Taylor Zolnoski, a sophomore majoring in education, said she has seen PATS vehicles in parking spots on more than one occasion. 

“There is a false sense of hope when you pull into a space but then there is a golf cart and that just adds to the frustration of there already not being enough parking,” Zolnoski said. 

Zolnoski said she comes across golf carts in student parking spaces multiple times a week.

Stephanie Schmidt, a senior majoring in environmental science and policy, has noticed that multiple spaces in the Crescent Hill parking garage, as well as Greek Village parking lots, are taken up by PATS vehicles.

“There is already limited parking on campus and I don’t think it is fair that when students are looking for parking, PATS employees are taking up spaces that students could be using,” Schmidt said.

“I think that it is an additional issue to the lack of parking on campus,” Schmidt added.

Nichols said the reason PATS vehicles would be in spaces in student parking lots would be if there was an occupied parking enforcement vehicle or maintenance vehicle and that an employee driver would be performing work in that respective lot.

According to Nichols, parking enforcement employees are usually working on foot once their golf cart is parked in the lot in which they are working.

“(PATS employees) have no reason or need to park en masse in S lots, E lots or any other lot; in fact it would be inconvenient for them to do so,” Nichols said in an email to The Oracle.

PATS said it is aware that people have problems finding parking spaces. Nichols said that Lot 18, located along USF Sycamore Drive on the east side of campus, the Richard Beard parking garage and the Crescent Hill parking garage usually have S parking spots available throughout the day.

“There are always at least a thousand spots available throughout campus even during peak times, it is just a matter of knowing where those spots are,” Nichols said.

Kayla Murzycki, a junior majoring in health sciences, said she notices open GZ and E spots when looking for a space to park, but hardly ever S spots.

“There are multiple instances where I am circling a lot or garage for an S space but there are ample open GZ or E spaces which I am not allowed to park in,” Muzycki added.

Nichols also added that employees have parking issues in their designated E parking lots as well. However, he said he understands that the issue is more impactful for students trying to get to class.

McKenzie Reagan, a senior majoring in health sciences who lives on campus, suggested one way that PATS could help the parking issue. 

“They probably could help by patrolling residential lots more because a lot of S people park there,” Reagan said.

PATS encourages students to park where they can, sometimes farther out from the building they are heading to, and use the Bull Runner to save time spent searching for parking spaces.

“I know a lot of people may come from situations where they are not used to using public transportation, so they may be a little intimidated by trying to figure out bus routes, but we can definitely help with that,” Nichols said.