Guest Commentary Opinion

Candidate column: Shane Smith

[alert type=”yellow”]EDITOR’S NOTE: The Cougar asked each SGA presidential candidate to write an op-ed indicating what they would do if they were elected. Here is Project Red: Better Food. Better Wi-Fi. Better Parking. candidate Shane Smith.[/alert]

Parking at UH is a nightmare that makes it hard to get to class on time. There aren’t enough spaces on campus, and adding spaces is virtually impossible because more parking lots require more land. There are ways, however, to improve parking without having to add parking spots.

From my experience, I’ve seen two main problems with parking at UH. First, there are too many students fighting for the number of spots that we have. Second, students don’t know where to find the few open spots that are available. Both of those problems can be improved without adding any new parking spots.

  1. Add an ERP-only parking pass option for $20. ERP is an off-campus location that students can park at if they choose. Shuttle buses run constantly during the day between ERP and main campus. The drive is about 10-15 minutes. By offering an ERP-only parking pass for $20 (that would be $80 cheaper than the current cheapest option), a number of students would choose to save that $80 and park at ERP. Because of this, there would be fewer students fighting for the spots on campus.
  2. Install digital “Spaces Available” signs in front of parking lots. These signs would keep an exact and current count of the number of open spots in each lot. Using sensors at entrances and exits, the signs can prevent students from having to circle parking lots for 10 minutes to find out if there are any open parking spaces.

How will these improvements be paid for? Through advertising in parking lots. Selling pavement advertisements (an ad printed on the parking lot cement), small billboards in parking lots, and naming rights to different lots and garages could bring in the necessary money to pay for the proposed improvements.

The key to this is having the support of students, administration and the parking department. SGA has no actual power – something that some candidates don’t realize. Student government has influence, which only matters if SGA has solid ideas that are realistic and helpful.

Student government’s influence comes from noticing problems that students are having, coming up with ideas to improve those problems and maintaining a good reputation with administration while advocating for those improvements to be implemented.

I’ve been a member of the Transportation and Parking Advisory Committee, so I understand the difficulties that the parking department faces. I’ve also seen the parking department’s administration work hard to try new ideas in order to make improvements, and I believe that they will be willing to consider these new ideas if students want them.

If you’d like to see these improvements proposed, vote for candidates from Project Red: Better Food. Better Wi-Fi. Better Parking. between March 1 and March 3.

Shane Smith is an economics junior and is running for SGA President.


      • Yeah, I’ve seen them. The cheapest pass is going to be $165 instead of $100 now. That should make a cheap ERP-only pass even more impactful.

        As for tuition, having a plan to pay for it is what keeps tuition from rising because of it. These parking lot advertisements would be seen by thousands of students every day. That will definitely attract companies.

        Our group includes a guy who managed parking for the city of Lubbock for several years (Andrew Bahlmann – real nice guy). He’s the real expert on this stuff and has researched what it would take to do and what it would cost. I won’t tell you I’m an expert on things I’m not, but he is. And this is a realistic plan that is pretty cool. From talking to lots of people, this would make a big difference in their daily lives. I’m pretty excited about it, as you might can tell. Haha.

    • Your tuition is going to go up next year; this was announced at the recent Regents meeting, because state funding is too low, because UH wants some of the state funds their not entitled to…yet. Has nothing to do with selling parking garage names or named bricks. Might want to give Dr. Khator a call about that. Plus, the Athletics department has several capital improvement projects in the wings as part of UH’s “master plan” Oh goodie; more football fields to not be able to fill. One can hardly wait.

    • Parking & Transportation Services is classified as an “Auxiliary Service” meaning that they get no tuition money.

      They’re funded from parking permits and tickets, from which they pay for lot maintenance and service the bonds issued to build our current parking garages. (In 2016 they estimate spending $6.5 Million just in debt service for the garages and expect to spend $14 Million a year after the construction of an additional two garages.)

      That said, total cost of attendance will rise. PTS’s is considering requesting a $25/student/semester transit fee to pay for the bus lines (which currently are paid for by those who pay for parking permits, even though commuters are probably the least likely to use them) and for subsidies for mass and on-demand transit options designed to reduce demand for limited parking.

      Parking permits themselves have to go up in cost though. Current garage passes pay for only 59% of the garage’s debt service, leaving the parking lot maintenance budget starved for funds and no money left to save for capital projects. Students (like myself) who have lot permits are subsidizing those with garage permits.

      While sheer expansion of parking supply can’t solve our issues, it is part of the answer. And expansion of parking requires capital expenditures.

      If we can find new ways to generate revenue for PTS though means such as advertising in lots or selling of naming rights, even if they don’t sell for much, we can reduce the burden on current students and better prepare our infrastructure for future students.

      As a “current senator,” I’m sure you already know all this; I write it here though for the benefit of the public, lest your dull and ignorant criticisms be taken seriously by the students body.

  • This guy seem smart, he actually knows the system for change. He also provided something realistic and concrete. I think Ill vote for this guy

  • Tired of whites people running for this position as a resume booster.. You would make no positive impact on our campus

  • Nothing succeeds like specifics. Our research found no pro-gun affiliations, nor any memberships with Greek-letter fraternities with tainted histories. Try as we might, we found little about Shane to dislike. He’s a go-getter with much in the way of SGA committee experience, (unlike Fields who has none.) Plus it doesn’t hurt that he is routinely engaged with students as a senior residential adviser (not walking around with a UH flag on an empty campus,) . He’s pretty squeaky clean, which was rather disappointing. He seems to posses the integrity UH students deserve but isn’t very schooled in paying lip service to things, which was odd. He’s rather get them done than talk about them. That was refreshing.

  • Shane, you should be ashamed of caving to political correctness on the BLM versus ALM issue. No backbone…

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