UF parking plan encourages use of public transport
Steve Schell
October 1996

On Tuesday, Oct 1, UF's Presidential Task Force on Transportation and Parking held a meeting to present their plan and receive public comment. The meeting was held in McCarty Auditorium, which was packed to capacity with students, faculty, staff, and media representatives. Those wishing to comment on the proposals were asked to sign up at the start of the meeting.

If you had arrived a bit late, you might have thought that UF was planning to ban all Homecoming activities from now on. Although the crowd sat patiently through the brief introduction, they were nearly hostile when the comment period began. It seems that the plan had as its major objective to (Gasp!!) encourage the use of transportation modes other than the single-occupancy vehicle as a means to get to and from campus.

We are all familiar with the parking and traffic situation on and around campus, even if we don't own a car. We hear the same story semester after semester--parking decals are too expensive and don't guarantee a space, bus service really blows, traffic on 13th St. and on University Avenue is frequently gridlocked around campus. So the Task Force was tasked with providing a plan to improve the situation. It is obvious to anyone who has read the final report that the committee did not take their task lightly and that they put a good deal of thought and research into their work. No, wait. I'm serious.

Anyone who wishes to protest the plan should at least read it and not rely on second or third-hand information. (The plan is available on the web at: www.bsd.ufl.edu). It was obvious, however, that many in attendance were not completely familiar with the plan's recommendations, or even the fact that the plan was just that--a recommendation. No part of this plan is a done deal. The report notes that it is consistent with the Campus Master Plan to encourage "reduced dependence on and use of single occupancy vehicles." So where were all the screaming voices when the Campus Master Plan was being discussed? I was at several of those meetings and in every case those involved in the creation of the plan outnumbered the audience.

The part of the plan that had most people so upset was the recommendation to create Enhanced Transportation Zones (ETZs) around campus. Student residents of this area would not be permitted to purchase a parking decal but would instead be provided with enhanced bus service to campus (four new routes running at 10-minute headways), and improvements to the major intersections which bicyclists would use to reach campus. Additionally, a new multi-level decal structure would be established for students: premium, on-campus ($150 per year), regular on-campus ($75 per year) and off-campus remote lots ($75 per year). The premium spaces would be available to students living on-campus.

Faculty and staff, on the other hand, would be allowed to purchase decals on a sliding scale: the more you pay, the better your parking location. Understandably, this had a lot of the lesser-paid people hopping mad. Some suggested that all faculty and staff be charged the same percentage of their pay for parking, while others felt that UF should provide parking for employees at no charge. Let's address some of the comments presented during the two-hour session:

  1. "I have a job after class. How am I supposed to get there on time if I have to take a bus home first?" Well, its good that you have a job after class. But that does not make it anyone else's responsibility to see to it that you get to work on time. We are all adults and we must deal with our own situations. I have a job after class too (on some days, before class), live over a mile from campus and I don't even drive to campus now as it is.
  2. "We already pay too much for parking. UF should provide parking for free." Grow up! Do you realize there are people in this town who have the bus as their only means of transportation? If they ride to and from work every day and buy the monthly pass, they are paying $360 per year, way more than you are paying to park. UF cannot provide free parking for every person who wants to drive to campus.
  3. "I have children. What if I have to go pick them up in a hurry one day?" This plan provides for a commuter assistance program which would attempt to cover situations like this. I wonder what those people who ride the bus every day to work do? They have children too.
  4. "Freshmen should not be allowed to park on campus." I was surprised to hear so many people in favor of this excellent idea. Such a ban exists on many campuses across the nation; some even include sophomores. If students would decide not to attend UF simply because they wouldn't be able to bring their cars on campus, fine. These aren't the type of students that belong here anyway.
  5. "The bus service is terrible now. How can you expect it to function any better with so many more people riding?" True. The current bus service, both on and off campus, is in great need of improvement. However, the plan spells out how this would be accomplished, i.e. new bus routes, more frequent service, more stops.
  6. "What if the bus is late? I'm not in elementary school anymore; I can't use that as an excuse if I'm late to a test or something!" This is one of my favorites. Take an earlier bus. The buses will be running every 10 minutes or every 20 minutes at the most.
  7. "It's not fair to give better parking to someone just because they can pay more." Another good point. Why should someone who makes too much money as it is get to park at the front door? This reminds me of the current gated system, which is also grossly unfair. One reason that it's hard to park on campus is because there are too many reserved spaces. If you want a good read, go to Parking Administration and pick up a copy of the Parking Rules and Regulations.

As a whole, this plan makes a lot of sense. It seeks to change people's driving habits, which is difficult but mandatory. It proposes procedures which are already being used at many other universities and which have been shown to work. In fact, one student spoke of another school at which a similar plan was in place and working fine. This plan is by no means the entire answer to UF's parking and transportation dilemma. But it is a start, and a good one at that. Plus, the administration actually held a meeting to take comments on the plan. There are too many times when they just make decisions without any input from those affected. I fear, however, that President Lombardi will reject the plan since he wasn't too enamored with it in the first place. He'll put it on the shelf with the Campus Master Plan. Any plan which doesn't promote the growth of UF (in enrollment and area) just isn't the right one for him. But the fact is, UF must take action on this problem or it will get worse every semester. Don't think, as someone commented, that leaving it alone will be better than changing it. It won't. This situation is like a disease which will spread if left unchecked until it brings this campus to its knees. UF's failure to act now is an indication of its indifference to the effects of its presence on the local community. Indeed, as several students noted, it is UF that drives Gainesville's economic engine. It is also UF that is causing all the congestion on Gainesville's roads.

Since there were so many people at the first meeting who never got a chance to speak, a second meeting will be held on October 29 from 4pm to 6pm at McCarty Auditorium. If you have something to add, make plans to go, but if you've already spoken at the first meeting, please don't show up to say the same things again. Oh, and before you go, read the plan.

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