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Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Frustrations arise for graduate students and seniors with attempts to buy parking passes

Gary Ward, vice chancellor of MU Operations, said MU P&TS is working with MSA, the Campus Parking & Transportation committee and others to resolve issues.

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The view from Parking Structure 7, which is located just South of the MU student health center.

Lane Burdette/Staff Photographer

Aug. 2, 2017

Updated Aug. 3, 2017 at 12:55 p.m.

Corrected 08/02/2017 at 9:21 p.m. A previous version of this story used the wrong pronouns to describe a source. The Maneater regrets the error.

With three weeks until the fall semester begins, students are already frustrated with their inability to park where they’d like.

Senior Danielle Katz, who had purchased three campus parking passes prior to this fall, said in an email that she had more issues with Monday’s process of purchasing a parking permission via the Tiger Park online portal than in previous years.

MU Office of Parking and Transportation Services, part of MU Operations, received criticism on Twitter on Monday when rising seniors complained of not being able to secure the parking spots they wanted, the lack of transparency from MU in relation to the new regulations and policies set forth by MU P&TS and the amount of time that it took to get a parking permission via the online portal.

The senior priority period was scheduled to open 9 a.m. on Monday. It accidentally opened at 7:30 a.m.

“We were updating some information in the portal and the box was inadvertently checked to open,” Karlan Seville, communications manager for MU Operations, said in an email. “It was closed shortly thereafter, within 15 minutes, when we realized the mistake.”

At least one student claimed he was able to get a parking permission during that time.

Out of the 24,000 spaces –– located in about 80 lots and seven garages across campus –– offered to students, faculty, staff and visitors, all of whom can purchase parking permits, more than 1,000 were purchased by seniors on Monday, Seville said.

Some students said they were unable to get the spots they wanted. They also said they didn’t realize some of their preferred options would be unavailable because of spots that were already purchased by graduate and professional students and because of updates in traffic and parking regulations that they were not made aware of prior to Monday.

“There has been some confusion as to parking permissions for students who live in private downtown student housing,” Seville said in the email. “Parking priority is given to students who live on campus in residence halls and to graduate students who teach or work on campus.”

Some students expressed on Twitter that they thought parking spaces were going unused.

“In order to reduce the amount of congestion on campus and create a safer environment for pedestrians we will be reducing the number of cars that have access to core campus parking,” the P&TS website states.

Though the wording may sound confusing, Seville said no spaces will go unused. Seville said “core campus parking” is defined by the boundary of Stadium Boulevard, Elm Street, Providence Road and College Avenue.

“We are selling all available parking spots within the core of campus except those reserved for visitors,” Seville said.

The visitor parking section of the traffic and parking regulations says that “MU shall furnish visitor parking, including vendors and service technicians, provided that priority is given to staff and students. Limited visitor parking space may be provided in prime location areas of campus.”

Visitor spaces are being reserved in Hitt Street Garage. Changes have recently been made near Hitt Street Garage.

“Meters have been removed along Tiger Avenue in order to create a bike path onto campus as well as reduce congestion,” Seville said in the email. “Additionally, we have a new system in place that more closely tracks permits in each garage. Previously, garages were oversold, which meant that there were times permit holders could not find a spot in the garage for which they had purchased a pass. Our new system eliminates this problem.”

In an email sent to students –– which some interviewed students said they never received –– Monday afternoon, Gary Ward, vice chancellor of Operations, said P&TS is “working with representatives across campus, including the Missouri Students Association and the Campus Parking & Transportation Committee.”

Last year, MSA elected no student members to the committee, which is one of many Chancellor’s Standing Committees, Seville said.

“Unfortunately, in many of the past years it has been common for these standing committees to go unfilled, as was the case for the Campus Parking & Transportation Committee during the 2016-2017 school year,” MSA President Nathan Willett said in an email. “Going forward, MSA Vice President Payton Englert has made it a priority to fill every undergraduate position on the various standing committees, including Campus Parking & Transportation.”

Before the committee reconvenes for the 2017-18 school year, Willett said he will be “presenting the concerns raised to the appropriate administrators.”

Sophomore Solomon Davis filled the vacant student position on the Campus Parking and Transportation Committee Thursday afternoon, according to an MSA Senate tweet.

Questions sent to Ward, MU spokesman Christian Basi and professor Tanya Christiansen, chair of the Campus Parking and Transportation Committee, were redirected to Seville.

Christiansen wrote in the committee’s 2016-17 annual report that “a measured expansion of reserved parking areas” was recommended by the committee. However, “a number of the most significant changes will not be implemented now because of the fiscal situation.”

“This recommendation will not [be] implemented until details are clearly defined,” Seville said.

However, some “relatively inexpensive recommendations,” such as encouraging carpooling and adjusting bus routes, will be implemented, Christiansen wrote.

Casey Edwards, a senior who will be living downtown in the fall, wanted to park close to downtown. She said in an email that it was “unbelievable” that only lots behind the stadium and parking lot AV14 were available to her early Monday morning.

“I felt uncomfortable and unsafe thinking about parking so far away from where I lived when I will need to get to and from my car, often late at night,” Edwards said in an email.

Senior Abbie Bliss said she decided not to buy a parking permission yet because she didn’t get the option she wanted.

“I did not purchase any spots yet due to wondering what my friends and other students’ options are,” Bliss said in an email.

Seville mentioned other options for getting to campus in her email.

“It should be noted that there are many ways to get to campus, and we encourage students, faculty and staff to carpool or use alternate means of transportation whenever possible,” Seville said. The Tiger Line shuttle, which Seville said has existed since the late 1980s, “ensure[s] that students have safe transportation from commuter lots to campus, downtown and other locations.”

Off-campus parking is an option. As of Aug. 1, the City of Columbia still had a few spaces available in the Fifth & Walnut Street Garage, Seville said.

“MU Operations manages Mizzou’s climate action plan reporting, and it is important that we address the greenhouse gas emissions of the vehicles that come to campus each day,” Seville said in the email. “Our sustainability manager Raghu Raghavan met with the parking consultant and sits on the Parking & Transportation Committee. In the years to come, we will learn from sustainability leaders such as Colorado State University to determine how we might offer discounts for those who walk, bicycle, carpool or ride a shuttle or city bus to campus.”

Seniors aren’t the only ones who had issues with obtaining parking permissions; there are many more students yet to have access to purchase them. Juniors, sophomores, freshman and transfer students can begin purchasing permissions Aug. 3.

Graduate and professional students, whose priority period was July 24-28, also experienced difficulties. Seville said about 2,200 parking passes were purchased from 9 a.m. July 24 to 4 p.m. July 28.

Andrew Kinslow, a doctoral candidate in science education, said his colleagues lost permits to park in garages that are close to the teaching/research buildings where they study.

“This will significantly impact those grad students who now will have to carry teaching and research materials in from the commuter lots,” Kinslow said in an email. “The inequity of some students receiving notification [of the portal opening for graduate and professional students] and others not, plus the total lack of communication is very frustrating.”

Bliss said her brother, who is an MU law student, was only given the option of parking on the top level of Hitt Street Garage. She said law students were previously able to reserve spaces on the lower levels of Hitt. She said he “does not want to complain about getting garage parking when others do not have the option,” but it is “frustrating” because the top floor of Hitt is “pretty small” compared to other floors and it may become overfilled.

Both Blisses, senior Marlee Baldridge and other students said they tried calling and emailing MU P&TS. Some received no responses, while Kinslow received only a “sorry for the inconvenience” response.

In his mass email to students on Monday, Ward wrote, “Our parking permissions vendor has been processing up to 10 permissions per minute during early morning hours.”

Katz said she would have been less frustrated about Monday’s struggles had MU warned her ahead of time about garages already being filled and the changes to where students can park.

“Mizzou P&TS had enough time to tweet to remind us about the portal opening up for seniors but not enough sense to mention that the parking was not what people expected,” Katz said in the email. “I’m still wondering if there was any foresight at all, because if there was, did they just not care enough to say something and be transparent?”

Edited by Olivia Garrett | ogarrett@themaneater.com

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