Despite offering parking passes at significantly lower rates than rival universities, supporting the nation’s largest university bus system and increasing the number of bicycle racks on campus, there are still many concerns about the transit and parking system by UT students.
Parking and Transportation Services and Student Government co-hosted a meeting Tuesday that allowed students to question representatives about problems in the parking and transit system and suggest solutions.
“Parking at the University of Texas is a little bit of a challenge,” assistant director of PTS Jeri Baker said. “We have about 15,000 parking places and about 75,000 people each day that come to campus.”
Baker said PTS must price parking affordably while financially sustaining the organization that does not receive funding from tax or university dollars. Often, funding comes from event parking that cause faculty and students to begrudgingly relocate their vehicles.
“One of the things that I always hear about is ’Oh, man, you value the football fans more than you value the students, because you kick us out of our spots for games,’” Baker said. “I want you to understand the money we generate when we have events on campus help us keep costs down for you.”
Baker said the cost of parking at UT is also substantially lower than at other universities.
“The current price of a C permit is $120 per year,” Baker said. “At A&M they pay $275 for the exact same parking permit. At Oklahoma it’s $195 per year, and at Texas Tech they sell a nine-month permit for $142.”
Alternative transportation manager Blanca Juarez said UT also plans to increase the number of bicycle racks on campus this year, increase the Zipcar rental program PTS offers and continue to provide shuttle services via bus both daily in Austin and on weekends to Houston, Dallas and San Antonio.
This alternative transport system was what graduate architecture student and bicyclist Kathryn Bedford said she was personally concerned about.
“I understand that a lot of what you need to provide has to do with cars and parking, but I’m wondering if more emphasis can be put on alternative means of transportation, like biking or frankly anything else,” Bedford said.
Baker said an advertising campaign promoting bicycling and safe motorist-pedestrian-bicycle interaction would be released early in 2012 to raise awareness about alternative transport.
PTS director Bobby Stone said he is often told bicyclists’ interaction with pedestrians and motorists is a headache.
"We hear bicyclists are a menace to this campus,” Stone said. “We often have to fight with people on campus who say bicyclists are the problem. Bicyclists aren’t the problem.”
Stone said he thinks educating the public on bicycle interaction is the real issue.
“We believe that we can mix cars, pedestrians and bicycles in a manner that’s safe and effective for all of us, but it takes a cooperative effort,” Stone said.
As students brought up a number of other concerns, Stone encouraged students to engage PTS in a dialogue to help find solutions to parking and transport issues.
“It’s a challenge, and we get all different kinds of perspectives,” Stone said. “It takes all of us.”