With multiple new construction projects and the ever-growing student body requiring more parking facilities, students have voiced their displeasure with the parking situation on The University of Alabama campus.
The director of parking services for the University, Chris D’Esposito, discussed the issues by providing ample parking and current plans to alleviate the situation, including a new 750-space parking deck for the Riverside East area.
Records obtained from parking services indicate that over the previous academic year, residential permits sold nearly equaled or, in some cases, exceeded the total number of parking spaces available for each permit. For example, 3,295 permits were issued for 3,339 parking spaces in Yellow Residential zones. For commuter permits, sales typically exceeded the number of available spaces. The greatest disparity for all permits was with the Red Commuter Northeast zone, where 4,863 permits were issued for 2,978 spaces. These numbers reflect total sales, so permits that are sold, returned at a later time and then resold are counted twice.
D’Esposito said while sales often exceeded availability, different class times and use patterns allowed the University to oversell.
“While you see the number of commuter permits purchased either almost exceeds or does in fact exceed the number of physical spaces for each particular zone, varying class schedules and personal use allows the University the ability to oversubscribe each commuter zone,” D’Esposito said.
Ford King, a junior majoring in political science, said he prefers the commuter permit to the residential permit.
“I had a yellow permit my freshman year,” King said. “The commuter permit is better. The residential lot is a lot more packed.”
Parking permits at the University are valid for one year. This year’s current permits are valid from Aug. 16, 2012 to Aug. 15, 2013. While students can preregister for a permit, sales continue throughout the year.
“Actually we are still selling permits to students who attend summer academic sessions,” D’Esposito said.
King said parking during summer months is much more consistent than parking during the regular academic year.
“The parking deck is almost empty every day during the summer,” King said. “During the regular year, it depends on what time of day you show up, and it’s really inconsistent. Sometimes it’s completely overloaded. Sometimes it’s suspiciously empty.”
Parking services considers a number of variables when determining how many commuter permits to issue in a given year. Residential permits are not as tightly controlled, since the housing supply works to regulate the demand for permits.
“For commuter zones, we base our sales and allotments on a few considerations: the number of physical spaces that will be available in each zone for the upcoming year, previous year’s used parking space, capacity levels in each zone and anticipated enrollment,” D’Esposito said. “Currently, residential permit sales are not capped.”
“Parking is going to get increasingly frustrating until they expand the parking infrastructure,” King said. “Right now, it feels like the parking system is taxed to capacity during the year. It’s not horrible, but it’s just about at the most people it can handle.”
Parking services is not a funded department at the University, meaning they receive no state funds for their operation.
“We are responsible for our own expenses, including employee wages and benefits, our equipment, software, etc.,” D’Esposito said.
The department is currently paying down a debt of over $1 million on existing parking decks, in addition to over $1 million annually for parking deck maintenance, over $1 million annually for surface lot and roadway maintenance, and annual subsidies to CrimsonRide for the purchase of new transit buses.
“So as you can see, our expenses are in the several million dollars annually,” D’Esposito said.
The removal of 290 spaces of the Riverside East Yellow Residential surface over winter break led to transportation services allowing students with yellow permits to park in the Red Northeast Commuter Campus Drive lot and to seniors and resident advisors being offered $50 Bama Cash to park in an alternate location. D’Esposito said a new parking deck will make this spillover unnecessary in the future.
“I am pleased to say this measure will not be necessary in the 2013-2014 academic year,” D’Esposito said. “The opening of the new Riverside East parking deck this fall will eliminate the need for supplemental parking in the Yellow Residential parking zone. Expected opening date is mid-August pending any unforeseen weather or construction delays.”
The Student Government Association has also joined the effort in finding ways to alleviate the parking problem at the University.
“We are currently researching the parking app and have not made any decisions as to whether we would implement one or not,” Leela Foley, SGA press secretary, said. “Alleviating the parking issue is high on SGA’s list of priorities, but with a growing campus, there are many elements involved and no simple solution.”