Due to multiple complaints, the Office of University Parking and Transportation Services recently hosted several meetings between administrators and students. On Nov. 19 and 20, students got a chance to divulge their opinions over a series of four focus groups. Held inside a Fauver Stadium conference room, the focus groups were held with the intention to reform the parking and transportation system in a fashion that will benefit both students and faculty.
George Guider, who will be taking over full-time as River Campus Parking Supervisor in January, was in attendance on behalf of the administration.
Also in attendance was President of Chance Management Advisers Barbara Chance, representing a consulting company specializing in parking and transportation. Her past clients include collegiate metropolises such as Ohio State University, as well as Harvard University and Duke University.
Chance was serving as an intermediary, hoping to identify and alleviate problems with the current parking and transportation system and to get a ‘wish list” of student desires.
Among the top issues raised by students was a reform of the parking lottery to reflect the current housing lottery, namely introducing a point system, as well as making the lottery public and more comprehensible.
Additionally, students advocated for more parking spots closer to the center of River Campus, which is currently exclusive to faculty parking.
Chance hinted that a long-term plan for a parking garage was in the works, but in the very early stages.
The focus groups showed that the most evident need, however, is an increase in communication.
‘Some students think there is a $2 million surplus,” Students’ Association Senator and junior Sylvia Guerra said.
‘We don’t make money,” Guider responded. ‘At the end of the year, we lose money. A lot of things we pay for students don’t know about.”
Collectively, students and administrators proposed the idea of a transparent budget, possibly posted on the Internet, showing where parking fees are being allocated.
This is a possible solution to rationalize the prices that have troubled students in the past. Students also put forth a request to have prices for parking reflect the distance from key areas on River Campus. According to the UPTS Web site, that may be in for a change as well.
‘Web design has been a problem for a long time,” junior Lauren Sussman said.
Chance acknowledged that there have already been talks about possibly restructuring the Web site to enhance communication and understanding between administrators and students. In the same vein, Guerra also suggested that the office would benefit from offering surveys to students every semester.
‘You would get invaluable feedback from semester surveys,” she said.
Another suggestion at the forefront of discussions was significantly adding to the running times of many shuttles offered by the University.
Sussman, who is in a choir requiring her to travel to the Eastman School of Music, confirmed this concern.
‘Half of our members leave early in order to catch the bus,” she said.
Students also requested that shuttles stay open later to match the closing time of Rush Rhees Library, and that buses run later on weekends. Sussman noted that she often has to conclude her night prematurely because of the shuttle schedule.
‘Most of the time when shuttles are closed, Security is tied up with other affairs, and sending out a transport isn’t a main priority,” senior Katie Van Duzer, who works for UR Security, said.
A resident of Riverview Apartments, Sussman added that she doesn’t feel safe walking home alone after the shuttles have stopped running.
Among the other items discussed were an extension on the 10-day appeal period for tickets, more understandable brochures to clear up confusing issues and the introduction of a nominal late fee to promote the payment of tickets and help the problem of withheld transcripts.
Attendance to the focus groups was not overwhelming, but both parties agreed that a lot was accomplished.
‘Had this been advertised really well, you would have had to turn people down at the door,” Guerra said.
Both parties also agreed that talks would continue in the future and that progress would be made in a joint effort to begin refining the parking and transportation system.
Smith is a member of the class of 2011.