Permits outnumber parking spaces
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The Department of Parking and Transportation has issued 3,627 more registrations than parking spots, according to documents obtained by The Houstonian. Officials have said the parking scales have not tipped quite yet as the university is pursuing different solutions.
Traditionally, SHSU has issued approximately 2.2 parking registrations per available parking spot, according to the 2020 Campus Master Plan and Matt McDaniel, director of parking and transportation. However, this fall the ratio has swelled to 2.6 cars per spot.
Although Sam Houston State University has traditionally issued more registrations compared to the amount of parking spots, McDaniel said the growing ratio is “in troubled waters.”
McDaniel said the increase stems from a growing population of busier students.
“Not only is the growing population a concern now,” McDaniel said. “People are staying longer after class, and it’s causing congestion in those areas.”
Currently, there are 2,605 available commuter parking spots, 2,077 residential parking spots and 1,042 faculty parking spots – 7,755 spots overall. However, 6,835 commuter registrations, 1,966 residential parking registrations and 1,465 faculty parking registrations – 11,382 registrations overall – have been issued as of Sept. 12, according to parking and transportation documents.
McDaniel said parking “can sometimes take a back seat” to university infrastructure improvements like new buildings and classrooms. Moreover, as the university continues to build with new buildings, the amount of parking spots have incrementally decreased, according to McDaniel. For example, 58 residential parking spots were available before the construction of the new Student Health Center in the north district. At the moment, there are 19 available parking spots within that lot.
“I believe the university knew we were going to grow. I don’t know if it was known it was going to happen this fast,” McDaniel said. “It’s going to be a game of catch up as far as parking.”
Student Body President Spencer Copeland agrees with McDaniel but said population growth is not currently a problem for SHSU but is on the horizon if not addressed in the near future. Copeland has met with the Department of Parking and Transportation, University Police and University President Dana G. Hoyt to discuss parking on campus.
“The right people are aware of the situation,” Copeland said. “I think that we need to be cautious and look into how we expand population wise and infrastructure wise…because of the landscape, geography or politics it is difficult to keep pace with the population growth. That is not necessarily a major problem as of right now. It could be in the next couple of years.”
With the exception of parking garage annual passes, there is not a limit of parking registrations issued each year. However, McDaniel said a cap on registrations could come in the near future. This semester prices of parking decals rose by 10 percent, according to McDaniel.
“This next year we’re really going to have to focus on that because we’re seeing the results of that,” McDaniel said.
Planning for a new parking lot is underway, but concurrent construction could limit the net gain of parking spots.
“We’re building a brand new lot with [approximately] 450 spaces,” Al Hooten, executive vice president of finance and operations, said. “We’re looking to try to complete it in phases so we can open up as much parking as we can as soon as we can. Now what’s being displaced is a number of existing parking spaces that are just north of what used to be the Richmond Apartments [where the new residential complex will be] and also the site where the Pirkle Building is going.”
The Texas State University System Board of Regents approved in May the expedited construction of a parking lot in SHSU’s south district that would ultimately accompany a new dorm facility. Multiple university officials have said the lot’s construction was sped up to accommodate parking spots lost to new building projects in the works.
However, other projects will simultaneously reduce the amount of spots gained. According to TSUS documents, the South Residential Complex will consume approximately 230 existing parking spaces across Avenue J from White Hall once construction begins in February 2015. Doug Greening, associate vice president for facilities management, said the Fred Pirkle Technology Building will consume 134 existing parking spaces as well once construction commences in summer 2015. This means that while approximately 450 new parking spots will be constructed, the university will only have a net gain of approximately 100 spots by summer 2015.
“We know parking is an issue,” Hooten said. “We are trying, overall, in our Master Plan, to move parking out of the interior campus and put it in the exterior, primarily for safety. There are too many students walking across streets.”
Hooten said most of the university’s construction efforts, other than the new parking lot, will take place next spring.
“Enrollment will be down in spring semester, so the demand of parking will be less than it is here in the fall,” Hooten said. “It’s pretty tight right now. We’re trying to start the parking lot as quickly as we can for it to be completed. So the pressure will not be as significant as it is right now, and by fall 2015 everything will be in place as far as the new parking lot being totally completed.”
Greening said they are hoping the parking lot construction can commence in October, although no date has been announced.
In the meantime, McDaniel said the university is also studying converting some spaces in residential parking lots to include commuters.
“We’re working on a search program, there are a couple of resident lots – Ravens Village and Bearkat Village – where we’re seeing around 45 to 50 spaces that aren’t being used,” McDaniel said. “We always want to see 100 percent usage in our lots. If that doesn’t change we’re going to open those up to community usage.”
McDaniel said he is looking to partner with different groups to develop alternative options to driving on campus. Of the options, Rideshare – a carpooling program – has been discussed extensively. The program would allow students to carpool with other students to and from campus.
“What we’re trying to do is come up with a carpool permit program to where if you are making that dedication to minimize the amount of cars on campus we’ll have a reserved spot waiting for you,” McDaniel said.
Currently, students who live in certain off-campus apartments have shuttles provided by the complexes getting to and from campus. McDaniel said the apartment shuttles “have been a relief to us.”
Updated Sept. 29 10:33pm – Corrected parking graphic with updated version.