Students still discontented with parking

By Emma Alexander – [email protected] – Asst. News Editor | Feb. 18, 2015 |
Students, faculty, staff and visitors experience parking frustrations, especially in the beginning of the semester. Although still a problem, the number of parking spaces has increased in past years, according to campus police.
“At first I felt confident in the parking at UNC Asheville, but that didn’t last long,” said Joan Mandeng, sophomore resident. “I realized that there doesn’t seem to be enough parking for everyone. Sometimes I don’t like parking down hills, walking in the dark and cold, because my dorm is far away.”
UNCA has 2,629 total parking spaces for faculty, staff, visitors, residents and nonresidents. In the fall semester, 2,763 applicants applied for permits and the police department issued 3,030, said Eric Boyce, assistant vice chancellor of public safety.
“The reason applicant and issued numbers are higher than the amount of parking spaces available is because people don’t always come at the same time,” Boyce said. “Parking ebbs and flows. For the university environment, some come in the morning and some in the evening.”
The police department will sell applicants a permit, but that will not guarantee them a space. Typically the campus provides enough parking spaces for everyone, Boyce said.
As of Nov. 21, the department of public safety issued 2,018 citations during the fall semester. Of those citations, students, faculty and visitors appealed 398, and the board of trustees waived 52 percent of them, Boyce said.
“Our employees encourage students to appeal tickets so they have an opportunity to be heard in the process,” Boyce said. “We like to apply the good-faith standard. If a student makes an effort to park in a space, not illegally, we try to get the ticket waived.”
Boyce said many students think his department is trying to get money for the police department or university. However, 80 percent of the money collected must go to the K-12 public school system. The rest goes to police department operations.
“The money students pay for parking permits are kept for the police department, which are still only a fraction of what we need,” Boyce said. “Citations are not a big revenue generator for us. We carefully allocate any money we get.”
During the first week of school, many students try to figure out locations of classes, buildings and parking lots. Sometimes they do not have the time to pick up their parking decals, Boyce said.
“It seems like there are more parking permits given out than there are spaces available,” said Allison Widner, senior resident. “I think we could add more parking or give out less permits and give upperclassmen first access to buying them.”
Of the four parking decks around campus, contractors did not build them with the capacity to hold more tiers, Boyce said. He said he was unsure of why they built them that way, but that Asheville residents prefer green space over concrete parking lots.
“It would also be costly to add to four parking decks,” Boyce said. “For materials, labor and everything else, it would be about $10,000 per space. It would easily cost millions.”
Boyce said when he came to UNCA in 2010, students and faculty experienced even worse parking conditions than now. He brought 13 recommendations to the board of trustees for improved parking.
“There was a lot of construction sites and materials around taking up spaces,” Boyce said. “We picked up the Sherrill Center parking deck, W.T. Weaver Boulevard parking lot, built P8 parking lot and had employee parking reallocated.”
Boyce said shuttles loop around campus every 12 minutes from 7:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.
“It used to be every 24 minutes, so we cut that time in half,” Boyce said. “There is a convenience factor with parking. We want to park closer to building we go to, but that’s not always possible. We, as creatures of habit, will go to our normal parking lot, see it’s full, and think there’s no parking.”
Student Government Association recently came up with a few ideas and initiatives for better transportation, which are now in the early planning stages, said Kelsey Gaffigan, sophomore senator.
“Some of our ideas in getting student feedback on where bike racks should be installed, creating a few high-occupancy vehicle parking spaces to encourage carpooling and distributing information about spillover parking,” Gaffigan said.
Gaffigan said SGA wants to inform students about shuttle routes, such as the one that runs from Merrimon Avenue to campus. There are other transportation services such as Zimrides, Asheville Redefines Transit system and free bike rentals.
“I have had some frustrating experiences finding parking, and that is one reason that it is important we encourage other modes of transportation,” Gaffigan said. “Our goal is to target the half-mile radius around campus. Those students are close enough that our school’s numerous transportation services could work for them. We hope to lower the number of single-occupancy vehicles on campus. Additionally, as an employee at the Student Environmental Center, I see the environmental reasons to try to lower the number of cars that commute daily to campus.”