Free parking remains unused
Use of the free UH satellite parking lot has remained low in its first week, despite parking and transportation officials’ expectations.
"We were expecting about 100 students to utilize the satellite parking on a regular basis," Robert Browand, director of Parking and Transportation Services at UH, said.
The maximum number of vehicles parked in the Texas Southern University lot at one time has been 44, he said.
"So that’s an average of about 37 cars a day," Browand.
He said he hopes to double, and eventually triple, the usage throughout the semester.
The 232-space lot, which has been renamed S3, was originally rented from the University to ease parking congestion, UH officials said.
Between Monday and Thursday the shuttle runs from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. On Friday it runs until 9 p.m. from the lot, at Rosewood Street and Scott Street, to Phillip Guthrie Hoffman Hall.
UH had finalized a deal with TSU on Aug. 29, and the University pays $1 for each space per day, which will roughly amount to $21,000 this semester and $40,000 to $45,000 for the additional shuttle buses, Browand said.
Physics senior Natalie Hudson said she hasn’t seen more than 30 cars in the lot at once.
Similarly, K.C. Newsome, a shuttle bus driver for AFC Corporate Transportation, said she gave 32 people a ride from the lot to campus on Sept. 6.
"Today it has really picked up," Newsome said.
Wednesday’s count had been 22, up from Tuesday’s five.
"Usage steadily increased during the first four days of operation, which leads me to believe that the reaction of those using it is favorable," Browand said.
Newsome said two students expressed some initial concern over safety, namely that someone may burglarize their cars.
"I told them, they have security guards to patrol this parking lot," Newsome said.
Most of the calls to Parking and Transportation Services have been regarding the shuttle bus service to and from the satellite lot, said Browand.
"The shuttle circulates on a continuous basis; the average time between shuttles is about 15 minutes," he said.
Some students using the satellite lot said they are avoiding purchasing a parking permit because they would still have to park roughly the same distance from their classroom – particularly in the lots between Holman Street and Wheeler Street.
"I don’t see the point to pay for it when you still have to park far away in the economy parking lot," biology senior Amber Ambrose said.
Her parking tag from last year expired on Aug. 31, so she was glad to find out about the free satellite lot.
"Riding the shuttle is pretty quick, so as long as you don’t have to walk, it’s great," she said.
Mitchell Schnyder, who works at the Campus Recreation and Wellness Center, said he was used to walking from "random places nearby."
Schnyder, a pre-pharmacy TSU student, has paid for TSU parking but uses the satellite lot instead.
"I’ve never really seen anybody parking here – even TSU students really don’t seem to use this lot. I guess that’s why there’s a little special deal between the schools," he said.
Schnyder also said he might ask for a refund of the roughly $80 he has paid for a TSU parking permit.
UH students do not seem to be cashing in their permits for the free parking, despite continued crowding and high demand for spaces.
"I have not seen a refund request specifically due to the satellite lot," said Browand.
For now, most of those using the lot have purchased a parking permit.
"Even if you pay $150 for a parking pass, you’re still not guaranteed a parking spot, so why even pay the $150? That’s not fair," Ambrose said.
Hudson said earlier in the semester she usually could not find a parking space in Lot 12A, near Robertson Stadium, and would park in the lot at Wheeler Street and Cullen Boulevard.
Like Ambrose, she had not yet paid for a permit when she became aware of the satellite lot.
"I was putting it off for a long time, so this came at a really convenient moment," she said.
Both Hudson and Ambrose said they expect the lot to be utilized once news spreads, but hope it does not fill up completely.
"I believe we have the biggest potential for increase from word of mouth," Browand said.
Whether the lot is offered during the spring semester depends on students’ continued use and TSU’s extension of the agreement.
As for whether it will require a permit or remain free, Browand said "there are no plans to change the way the satellite parking operates."