One student’s concerns and frustration with on-campus parking has recently sparked a response from fellow students, requesting a drastic change in the current C- zone parking.
“I was waiting for my Organismal Biology class to start and my husband called me,” said Madeline Lazenby, senior in microbial biology. “He was driving my car, and my car has C-zone. He was on the phone with me for 30 to 45 minutes just looking for a parking spot.”
Out of frustration, Lazenby started the C-zone parking petition on Sept. 14. She did not expect the attention her petition would later receive.
“My initial goal was just to get attention for it – to tell Parking Services or Auburn University in general, ‘wake up, this is a thing,’” Lazenby said before her meeting with Director of Parking Services Don Andre and SGA Vice President of Auxiliary Services Austin Chandler on Sept. 29.
Andre has been the director of parking services at Auburn University for six years. In his time as director, Andre has created several initiatives to help the parking situation on Auburn’s campus including the War Eagle Bike Share and the War Eagle Express.
“It has certainly been a problem with us as well,” Andre said. “I am looking forward to the chance to help students because I’ve been trying to do that for the six years I’ve been here.”
Andre, Lazenby and Austin Chandler, SGA vice president of auxiliary services, came up with a plan for the Auburn University Traffic and Parking Committee. They created both a short-term and long-term plan. The short-term plan they decided upon was to raise the cost of a parking pass by $20.
“If we’re going to do this we’ve got to get it where parking gets the money and the cost of permit registration would go up.” Andre said about the long-term plan. “But we’ve got to make sure the administration assures us the money goes to parking, not the general fund. Ticket revenue, same thing – parking money goes to parking.”
Auburn University has the lowest cost of a commuter parking permit in the SEC, Andre said during the meeting.
All ticket revenue currently goes toward the general fund, allowing administrators to decide what the money will go toward.
The short-term goal directly determines the long-term goal as the funds will go toward building more C-zone parking on campus. Another long-term goal is to create a true “park and ride” similar to the one at University of Mississippi.
“It’s a bus that goes straight to campus,” Andre said. “The plan would be you would build a lot two miles from campus– north, south, east and west. Put a 600-car parking lot in each one of those. We run 57 buses a day, take 48 buses and run 12 from each lot. It’s nonstop coming in.”
Andre said an upcoming parking lot north of Woodfield for the upcoming, new Performing Arts Center is expected to serve as C-zone parking during the day.
“There was discussion with Tiger Transit to run a Tiger Transit from that lot straight down Duncan straight to the Haley Center,” Andre said.
These short and long-term goals were presented to the Traffic and Parking Committee on Oct. 2, but the goals were not as well received as Andre, Lazenby and Chandler had hoped.
“It does seem more congested this fall than it has in past falls,” said Director of Facilities Management Ben Burmester in response to Lazenby’s presentation. “Increase in enrollment, a few spots have been taken away.”
Burmester was receptive to the ideas including using the Performing Arts Center parking lot.
In the past five years, the University has added 2,000 parking spaces, Burmester told the committee.
Andre countered Burmerster’s remarks saying that many of those spots are not for commuter students because of the 2,000 spaces added, 900 of them come from the North Parking Deck, which is for on-campus residents.
“I’ve always felt the University does a pretty fair job of being able to respond. We’re the lowest cost of a permit compared to any of our peers for faculty, staff and students,” said Burmester. “We always have space available. It may not be the most desirable space. But if you bought a permit, there is always an open space.”
Since the beginning of the fall 2017 semester, Andre and his parking services staff have been unable to collect data on how many true open spaces are available in each lot, such as PC1 or a regular C-zone. He said many cars, however, are parked illegally or not in their correct zone.
“Obviously, we don’t have enough parking when people are parking on curbs,” Andre said. “And I’m having to tow them. I get parents calling me asking why did my son or daughter get towed. Well, because they parked on the curb. Why did they park on the curb? Because they couldn’t find a place to park.”
Burmester agreed there is a problem this year but acknowledges this year as the first year he personally has noticed the problem. Andre and his present staff countered this by saying they believe this has been a problem for the last two to three years.
Members of the committee agreed that each year it feels like they are playing catch up as the University grows without many plans for the growth. Ideas like the true “park and ride” and reallocating parking ticket revenue to a parking-only fund were heavily discussed but left at a draw.
“This committee doesn’t have a budget. We don’t have the ability to sponsor a project, but people on this committee can,” Burmester said. “We can work with administration to see if there is additional funding.”
The Traffic and Parking Committee meeting was left with more awareness of the issues regarding parking on campus and the students’ perspective on these issues. No decisions were made to start any projects for more C-zone parking, raise permit costs or reallocate parking ticket revenue.