Students struggle with crowded commuter lots, busesBy Sonya Haines | 10/18/2017 9:24pm
Students rush to their cars in the mornings and begin their drive to campus. Whether their commute is five or 45 minutes, many face the same issue once they arrive: an inability to find a parking space.
With the number of students continuing to grow, a record 38,563 this fall, many facilities around campus are attempting to keep up, transportation services included.The University currently has 22,548 parking spaces available for faculty, staff and students.
There are three main zones around campus, West Commuter, Southeast Commuter and Northeast Commuter. The passes for each zone ranges between $220 and $630. The farther away the zone is, the less expensive the pass, said Chris D’Esposito, the director of transportation services.
The West Commuter Zone has 1,560 parking spaces but has issued 1,800 parking permits, 240 over the number of spaces available. The Southeast Commuter Zone has 2,012 spaces but has issued 2,431 permits, 419 over the number of spaces available. The Northeast Commuter Zone has 3,415 spaces but has 6,015 permits issued, 2,600 over the number of spaces available, D’Esposito said. All parking pass numbers are as of Sept. 27, and parking passes continue to sell.
“We oversell all of the transit areas,” D’Esposito said. “Overselling is possible [because] of varying schedules, [this] allows for a flexible parking environment. When permit allocations are set yearly, we also look at historical average capacity for the previous year, any construction planned in the area for the [following] 12 month[s] and any changes that may have occurred with regards to parking capacity in the area.”
Even with different schedules, students around campus are still feeling the effects of the growing number when attempting to find parking spaces during busy times. Specifically, in the northeast commuter zone where the number of passes sold surpasses the number of total parking spaces in the west commuter and southeast commuter combined.
Rian Tyler, a junior majoring in marine biology, parks in the northeast commuter zone and arrives on campus one to two hours early to ensure he can find a spot and get to class on time.
“[The lot] fills up quickly, [and] maybe because I have later classes, it seems to always be occupied,” Tyler said. “I hate that I have to be here really early to get a parking space.”
Tyler typically arrives on campus between 8-9 a.m., but does not have classes until 10-11 a.m, he said.
Joey Matthews, a senior biology major, only arrives 15 minutes before his classes begin, and as a result, finds himself late for some of his classes.
“I can always get a spot, [it just] sometimes takes forever or it is in a remote corner of the lot and I am sprinting for the bus,” Matthews said. “The longest I have had to wait for a bus is a little over 20 minutes, but when I am getting there 15 minutes before, I kind of put that on myself. But if I miss that first bus [and have to wait for a second one to come], chances are I am late.”
Many students that park in the Northeast Commuter lot rely on the buses to transport them to and from their classes simply because the lots are so far away from the rest of the campus. Students that find themselves relying on the bus systems sometimes face overcrowded buses.
Heather Griffith, a sophomore public relations major woke up one morning this semester to find that her alarm clock had not gone off properly and she was running short on time.
“I got to the campus 15 minutes before my class started,” she said. “I needed to get all the way to ten Hoor Hall for my international relations class. As I pulled into the parking lot, the bus was pulling up. I sprinted from my car, but the bus was so full I was forced to wait for the next one to come, and ended up being late to my class.”
While that was just one incident, Griffith said that she often finds overcrowded buses. Specifically, the Bronze Bus, as that is the only all-day route that goes to the middle of campus from the Northeast Commuter lots. Often all the seats are full and people are standing, being forced to push into one another because of the number of people and lack of room, she said.
Jake Sinacori, a sophomore majoring in general business, wishes he could just park closer to the area his classes are.
“[The lot] is kind of far from all my classes,” he said. “They are all around the quad, and it is quite a walk.”
Sinacori usually arrives at least 30 minutes before his classes start to give him enough time to not only find a parking spot, but to make the hike to class.
“I always find [a parking spot], but sometimes it is literally in the last row of the lot,” he said.
Students that have classes between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. are more likely to experience issues with parking, D’Esposito said. The busiest days in order are Tuesday, Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and then Friday.
The transportation services have not received many complaints made by students about parking issues or the buses, D’Esposito said. However, they are willing to move more equipment to alleviate the problem if they are not able to meet the needs of the students during specific times.
“[By using] BusBuzz on the website, [students] are able to send a direct message to us instantaneously,” D’Esposito said. “... We take them seriously and try to follow up on every one of them [submitted]. We are always here to listen.”
To access BusBuzz, students can log onto crimsonride.ua.edu, click on "How Are We Doing" and then leave a compliment, suggestion or complaint.