Parking issues top list of student concerns
The shortage of parking spaces, regulation clarity and safety are among the major concerns students say should be addressed by UH President Renu Khator.
UH should better inform students of parking regulations and make the process to clear tickets easier, mechanical engineering sophomore Jose Uribe said. Despite having a permit, he recently received a ticket for not having one when it was on his dash and not hanging on his rearview mirror.
Uribe said he was frustrated when he tried to appeal the ticket. When he appeared at the office, he found out he had to pay in cash. When he tried to process the appeal online, the system would not accept his PeopleSoft 8.9 identification number.
This was not Uribe’s first experience with a parking violation. Last year, Uribe’s car was towed when he parked illegally at Moody Towers. Uribe said it was confusing because parking was not clearly marked residents-only.
Uribe said parking could be improved if the University opened up lots closer to campus. He also suggested the condition of the lots could be better.
"There are deep potholes in the parking lots that need to be improved," Uribe said. "They are all over, and always full of water."
To accommodate parking needs, the parking department is split into two sections, Fidel Ramirez, assistant director of Parking and Transportation Services, said.
"There is Parking Enforcement and Parking (and) Transportation Services," Ramirez said. "We handle the administrative side. The parking lot being maintained, parking tickets being paid and transportation like shuttles are under our jurisdiction."The UH Department of Public Safety’s Parking Enforcement issues citations to parking violators ranging from $11 to $26. A breakdown of the tickets can be seen on the Parking and Transportation Services Web site, www.uh.edu/plantops/pts/pts.html. Last year more than 45,000 citations were issued to parking violators, averaging more than 15,000 per semester, Ramirez said.
Business administration graduate student Melissa Scarborough said the worst part about parking for part-time evening classes is the lack of spaces. Taking away parking spaces when Lot 19A was closed to build the Calhoun Lofts made the situation worse, Scarborough said.
"I have driven around for more than 30 minutes looking for a spot, and it was not worth going to class anymore because I had already missed so much that I just turned around and went back home," Scarborough said.
She said she has seen students sitting in their cars waiting for people walking to their cars. Then, they pick up the student leaving class and drive them to their car to ensure getting the parking space.
"They thought the parking garage would help, but they charge ridiculous prices to park in there," Scarborough said. "What student is going to pay more to park when there is a parking lot for cheaper right across the street?"
UH has 7,413 commuter-student spaces, 4,000 outlying spaces and 1,000 garage spaces where students can park their vehicles, as of this spring.
According to the Parking and Transportation Services Web site, purchasing a parking permit does not guarantee students a parking space. Instead, it allows students to park if they find a spot. With an enrollment of about 34,000, students said finding a spot has been difficult in past semesters.
"Maybe cutting down the size of staff parking lots since they are always only one-third utilized might help," Scarborough said. "They could reserve the front half for staff and the back half for students. I think sharing those on campus would definitely open up a lot more spaces for students."
Parking and Transportation Services has made new shuttle buses available to students this spring and is repaving Lot 4A. Construction of a second garage will begin this summer, Ramirez said. Students said they are expecting change with Khator’s 100 Days Web site, where both the community and the campus can leave comments suggesting ways to improve the University.
"I’ve had no communication with President†Khator’s office regarding parking issues submitted to the president’s First 100 Days campaign," Robert Browand, director of Parking and Transportation Services, said. "It is my understanding that the First 100 Days is†for information gathering and that discussion and objectives setting†will take place after that period.
"Parking is never going to be something that people are†100 percent satisfied with. We are taking steps to†make the system better.†Some issues that we are currently working on are replacing parking lost to recent construction, improving existing unpaved parking†areas on campus, expanding online services and improving customer service offered to faculty, staff and students," Browand said.
Along with these improvements, keeping the lots safe is still a concern.
"The main difficulty in maintaining a safe parking environment is that we are a public university with 73 parking areas and 17,000 spots," UH Police Chief Malcolm Davis said.
There are cameras in several of the lots that are recording around the clock, Davis said. In a security alert sent through student and faculty via e-mails Thursday, UHPD reported that four cars belonging to students were stolen from three separate lots on campus.
With only a few of the exits being recorded, the suspects escaped.
"There is no way they can all be monitored," Davis said, "It’s a guessing game for the bad guys. Sometime they guess right and escape, sometimes they guess wrong and are arrested."
Davis said students and faculty should help keep a safe environment because it is everyone’s job. With about 110 employees in the Department of Public Safety, Davis said that ensuring campus safety is not easy.
Additional reporting by Debi Ostrom, Hannah Eastham and Dominic Dames