Volume 12, Number 18 May 13, 2005

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Parking improvements continue

By Lawrence McMahen

The long-standing thorny problem of campus parking for faculty, staff and students is easing, thanks to the introduction of scramble parking and construction of the stadium parkade.

And two managers who oversee U of S parking say they’re working to continue the improvements so that parking customers get even better service in the future.

Consumer Services Director John Olson and Administrator Judy Wall say thanks to conversion to scramble parking in some lots in recent years, the perennial waiting list for faculty and staff parking stalls has been eliminated.

“Now, everyone requesting a spot gets one. Before, there was always a shortage,” Olson says.

Wall notes that because of the switchover of Lots R, Q and F in recent years from assigned stalls to scramble, the total number of vehicles that all faculty and staff lots can hold has risen to 2,535 from the previous 2,250.

And she and Olson say plans call for the changeover of major Lots G and V to scramble within the next few months, adding further to parking capacity. The joint faculty-University parking committee passed a motion at its last meeting to scramble V-Lot.

The number of users given parking rights in a scramble lot can be up to 28 per cent over the number of stalls, without causing a lack of available spots, Wall says.

“Our plan is to scramble as many lots as we can, where the size warrants, to allow more access to more people,” Olson says. He adds he would like to see customer service move beyond just providing a spot to everyone – to a point where people are getting parking spots in their preferred locations on campus.

He says other improvements in the near future could include paving some of the lots, but an assessment would be done first to see if people want that, since the costs must be borne by users of the parking lots.

The University began the move to scramble parking in 2002 with a trial-run in R-Lot. Although a survey of users said they liked the switch to scramble, the U of S Faculty Association (USFA) demanded drive-around lanes inside scramble parking lots and security gates to prevent abuse by non-permit holders.

The University has invested in a high-tech gate system, which has been installed in F and G Lots. Olson says plans call for gates to be added to R, Q and V Lots this summer.

Wall explains in the “AVI” (Automated Vehicle Identifier) gate system the gate recognizes a small two-by-12-centimetre tag in the car as it approaches, and raises the bar allowing entry. While an employee can have multiple copies of their car tag so they can drive any of their vehicles to work, only one of their tags can be inside the lot at a time.

Wall says there have been some questions about the privacy of data about who is in a parking lot, but the University doesn’t use the gate data to identify individuals. It simply monitors parking volume at various times in the lots.

Olson says the cost of the gate system will be covered by extra parking revenue generated by the additional users, thanks to the move to scramble parking.

He adds that by this fall, 85 per cent of faculty and staff who park on campus will have an AVI tag.

Olson and Wall say the feedback they get is that the vast majority of users are happy with the switch to scramble parking.

“I believe that, almost without exception, the people now parking in scramble lots would be reluctant to change back,” Olson says.

Both parking managers say they think the new stadium parkade will, over time, contribute to a much better parking service for students and the public.

While it was projected to lose money for its first five years of operation, in its first eight months it is losing at a higher rate than expected. But Wall and Olson say when R-Lot in front of Kinesiology is gated, when new student residences and an ice arena are built as planned near the parkade, and when a walkway across College Drive connects the residences to main campus, the parkade should gain much higher usage rates and financial viability.

Wall says student parking – including the scramble Lots E, P, Y, U and 200 spots in the 866-stall parkade – provide parking for 3,000 students. She says that basically accommodates all student demand for parking.

For more information, contact communications.office@usask.ca

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