Bobby Stone

Photo Credit: Mengwen Cao | Daily Texan Staff

When the student body elected Kori Rady and Taylor Strickland as president and vice president in February, transportation was a significant part of the duo's campaign. Rady and Strickland focused on points such as the expansion of uRide, to take students home from the study rooms in the Perry-Castaneda Library, as well as the implementation of Safe Ride, to take students home from the bars on Sixth Street. Earlier this month, Rady forwarded The Daily Texan an email he said he had sent to the Student Government representatives, which listed the initiatives he and Strickland have been working on. Naturally, the Texan fact-checked the list, and although most of what he said was accurate, Rady did exaggerate some of SG's accomplishments, causing some initial confusion about important agreements and contracts necessary for his initiatives to be completed.

Rady has been working with UT's Parking and Transportation Services over the summer to implement Safe Ride. Initially, Rady told The Daily Texan the program had been completed and would begin the first week of school. A few days later, PTS spokeswoman Blanca Juarez said the contract hadn't been signed yet, and without a contract, everything could change. Granted, because Juarez is a spokesperson, she has to err on the specific, technical side when discussing new programs and services, but the fact remains that the program was not, in the literal sense of the word, "complete." PTS director Bobby Stone did say last week that the operational details Rady told the Texan  professional drivers will drive students home, free of charge, from the downtown area Thursday, Friday and Saturday between 12 a.m. and 3 a.m.  line up with Stone's and Rady's discussions, and on Monday, Juarez confirmed these details. After the Texan asked Rady about the contract, he quickly acknowledged that it hadn't been signed at that time, and that he had "jumped the gun." While his exaggeration could demonstrate his excitement about the program more than any intentions to mislead people, future exaggerations like this may pose a problem.

The 24/5 PCL uRide program, which gives students rides home from the PCL between midnight and 3 a.m., is another transportation program Rady is working with, but his main objective here is to expand the program to West Campus. When Rady said uRide had been expanded, the uRide company hadn't signed the contract yet, meaning this expansion wasn't finalized, though on Friday, the company sent the contract to PTS, according to Juarez. 

In his email, Rady said, "We have also found a way to create sustainable funding for the endeavor fund, an endowment, through a new agreement with the Co-op. The agreement will give us a percentage of revenue from the sale of some new blazers they are putting in stock." This sounds like the agreement is finalized and secured, but when the Texan asked him for more information about the Co-op agreement, he immediately said an agreement with the Co-op hadn't been signed. Hulan Swain, University Co-op corporate secretary, said the Co-op and SG have discussed such an agreement, but she had nothing to tell me "until (and if) we have an agreement." The fact that Rady quickly clarified what he meant by "a new agreement" is nice, but it's interesting that he phrased it like that in the first place, and that Swain included the phrase "and if" in her response. 

Rady also seemed a little too earnest when he said the UTexas app for Android will be released around the first week of school. Mike Horn, UT's director of digital strategy, said it is unclear how much time UT and the four student developers require to finish the contract. One of the students who developed the app, Anurag Banerjee, said the developers and the Information Technology Services department still need to finish some "departmental legal work" before signing the contract, but they are on track to finish by the first week of school. So, while it sounds like UT will release the app by then, the lack of a completed contract means no one can guarantee that the app will hit the Google Play store by the time Rady said it would. 

The rest of Rady's email, which discussed less concrete issues that require more development, seemed pretty devoid of overstatements. Rady mentioned more banners and branding on campus, which was one of the campaign's platforms in the spring. He and Strickland have submitted a design to the University, and Kathleen Mabley, director of brand marketing and creative services, said UT is exploring the feasibility of banners around campus.

Another work-in-progress is a process called the Strategic Student Vision, which SG, the Senate of College Councils and the Graduate Student Assembly are working on. Rady said this would be a survey for students to contribute ideas for how to improve campus. Mark Jbeily, a member of the President's Student Advisory Committee, said the process' objective is to identify student life and academic issues, which will create continuity and "allow administrations to carry on shared goals."

Vice provost and registrar Shelby Stanfield said last week that a few months ago, SG representatives met with him to discuss improving the course schedule, so the schedule now includes a link that eliminates the need to write down each unique number and then manually enter it into a different window to register for a class. SG also worked with Harrison Keller, executive director of the Center for Teaching and Learning, to increase the visibility of course instructor surveys during registration.

Another initiative is first-time parking ticket forgiveness, which Strickland has discussed with PTS, but this one doesn't appear likely to happen. Stone, the PTS director, said for permit holders, each year PTS dismisses up to three failures to display a parking permit — in other words, PTS already has a type of parking forgiveness program implemented. Stone said he is still considering Strickland's ideas, though.

SG also appears to be trying to focus on some initiatives that aren't limited to just UT students. In June, the presidents of Senate, GSA and SG signed a Memorandum of Understanding for Invest in Texas, a student-led campaign that advocates for higher education during the biennial legislative session. This is in the preliminary stages, though. SG still needs to discuss and vote on the platform and budget, according to Rady.

Another organization that involves the whole state is the Texas Students Association, a group of student government leaders from Texas colleges and universities. The association has not been active recently, and although Rady said it is planning to be active during the next legislative session, it is unclear how likely the association's re-emergence is.

Texas Exes and SG are working on an advocacy program that will pair one student from each of the 31 Senate districts in Texas with that district's senator, along with an alumnus from that district. The idea behind the program is to help students engage with alumni and allow the students to meet with the senator periodically throughout the legislative session, according to Daniel Becka, Texas Exes director of advocacy. Rady said the program will probably release the application in September. 

Overall, Rady and Strickland seem to be attempting to follow through on many of their campaign promises. Rady seems to mean well, but his exaggerations certainly give us pause and will keep us watching him over the coming year.

A UT parking ticket plastered onto a windshield is not something most people on campus look forward to seeing upon returning to their car — they can cost as little as $35 and as much as $400. Fees from these tickets fund UT’s Parking and Transportation Services, the same group that dishes them out.

Bobby Stone, Parking and Transportation Services director, said ticket prices around campus are decided by a transportation committee — made up of faculty, students and staff — and can fluctuate often. 

A portion of Parking and Transportation’s revenue is fueled by citations, according to presentation notes from the department’s transportation committee meeting in April.

Tickets contribute 7 percent to the department’s revenue, according to the notes. Public and event parking and parking permits account for 92 percent of the revenue and brought in a daily average of nearly $2.5 million during the 2011-12 academic year.

Alternative transportation services suvh as the department’s carpool program make up the remaining 1 percent.

Parking and Transportation’s duties extend beyond what its name implies; the department also oversees the regulation of vending machines around campus.

“The campus needed a group that was well-versed in handling budgets, contracts and other financial manners to oversee the university vending program and P&T volunteered,” Stone said. “P&T only receives [revenue from vending machines] to cover the cost for oversight with the remainder of the funding going back to the University to be disbursed to various University programs.”

Stone said the department issues 35,000 to 40,000 tickets per year, but could not provide an average of daily citations. Stone said Parking and Transportation does not enforce a citation quota around campus.

Stone said ticket prices changed many times on a case-by-case basis over the years. 

In accordance with fees incurred from the Americans with Disabilities Act, citations for illegally parking in a handicap-accessible parking spot have doubled in recent years from $100 to $200. Stone said repeat offenders risk paying up to $400 for each additional violation.

Stone said some of the revenue collected from citations can cover operational costs.

“If we have to move an illegally parked car, money from those relocation citations goes directly to the towing company,” Stone said.

UTPD officers can also issue two types of citations, UTPD spokeswoman Cindy Posey said in an email. She said one type of citation is called a “UT ticket” and the other is a court appearance ticket. The money from UT tickets is actually given to Parking and Transportation, while fees from court appearance tickets are sent over to Justice of the Peace, Precinct 5.

Similarly, APD Lt. Derek Galloway said money from APD tickets is sent to municipal court and then distributed to cover the city’s basic services.

Stone said Parking and Transportation is a 100 percent self-funded auxiliary department of the university.

“This means that everyone who parks on campus pays,” Stone said. “Citations are issued to protect the spaces that faculty, staff and students have paid to utilized.”

We spent a day with PTS Officer Jon Schorle, whose story consists of much more than just writing out parking tickets.
Photo Credit: Kenneth Carnes | Daily Texan Staff

Faculty and staff parking spots account for almost half of on-campus spots, but many employees still struggle to find parking.

Parking for UT’s 23,000 employees is scattered throughout campus, but some staff members have to park beyond walking distance from their offices in lots across Interstate 35.

Gary Thomas, a technical staff associate at the department of physics, said the University does not offer staff members many parking options and spaces on campus are limited.

“As a UT employee, I can buy an A permit to park on a surface lot where, on average, about 4.5 permits are sold for each space that exists,” Thomas said. “If you visit a close-in surface A lot, you can see many staff arriving very early in the morning to claim a space, then killing considerable time eating breakfast, listening to the radio or reading the paper in their car while waiting for time to go to work.”

Thomas said he served on the UT Staff Council Transportation and Solutions Committee two years ago, and some staff members in his department have shifted their work schedule to start at 6:00 a.m. so they can find a parking space within walking distance.

Faculty and staff can park in F parking spaces throughout campus and in University parking garages, totaling 6,197 parking spots, Bobby Stone, director of Parking and Transportation Services, said. Some employees spend more than a year on the waiting list for a garage parking spot. Most staff members qualify to park in the 977 A parking spaces located mostly on San Jacinto Boulevard, Robert Dedman Drive and Longhorn Lots east of Interstate 35.

Parking spots cost $476 for F lot-specific spaces, $420 for F garage-specific spaces and $142 a year for A spaces.

Stone said faculty and staff usually choose a parking permit based on when and where they work. The N and N+ parking permits provide evening staff with access to most parking spots after 5:45 p.m. and cost $36 for a surface parking permit and $60 for a surface and garage permit.

“Some of our evening staff don’t necessarily need an F or A permit, because they work in the evenings when it can be easier to find parking in other areas of campus with other permits,” Stone said.

The University offers all 17 deans their own parking spots in specific F99 spaces near the building in which their office is housed, Stone said. Other administrators also get first choice on nearby parking spaces, but some faculty members, including Glenn Frankel, School of Journalism director, prefer to use public transportation to get to campus.

“I step out on Speedway and 41st Street and can usually catch a Cap Metro or University shuttle that will get me to campus within five minutes,” Frankel, who lives in Hyde Park, said. “I can’t think of a more efficient and inexpensive way to get to my job.”

Frankel said the University offered him a good parking space as director of the journalism school, but he said he did not want to spend hundreds of dollars a year for parking because he has the option of taking a five-minute bus ride.

PTS also promotes a carpooling service that is successful among faculty and staff, Blanca Juarez, manager of alternative transportation services at PTS, said. Last year 1,010 faculty and staff registered for the carpool program, which grants each carpool vehicle access to specific parking spots in the C parking lots, Juarez said.

University administrators, including UT president William Powers Jr., can purchase O permits for $775 a year for access to 57 spots located primarily around the UT Tower. The athletics department’s administration staff, including head football coach Mack Brown, park in F21 parking spots along the west side of the stadium or in limited parking spots underneath the stadium, Stone said.

Printed on Friday, October 26, 2012 as: Employees face transportation woes

Director of Parking and Transportation Services Bobby Stone has been with PTS for 26 years and oversees all transportation operations. Stone recommends commuters look at alternate transit options such as using bikes, buses and UT’s carpooling program.
Photo Credit: Pu Ying Huang | Daily Texan Staff

Bobby Stone has worked for UT’s Parking and Transportation Services for 26 years. As the director, he is responsible for overseeing all transportation operations, including campus parking, shuttle buses and maintenance of all University vehicles. Stone sat down with The Daily Texan to discuss the current state of parking at the University, common parking complaints and what he is doing to address these issues.

The Daily Texan: What are the most common complaints you hear about parking on campus?
Bobby Stone: Having to pay to park. One of the biggest misconceptions is that we get funding from tuition or get funding from the state, and we don’t. All our funding is derived from the people who use our service ... All we’re asking is that people who actually use the service help pay to support it. We do set the service up in such a way that we only collect up the amount of money that we need to pay our bills and break even. We have some pretty big expenses in order to provide parking for everyone.

DT: UT has close to 75,000 students, faculty and staff but has 15,875 parking spaces available. Do you think it’s valid to say UT has limited parking on campus?  
Stone: I would tell you that is a misconception. We have run the University with about 15,000 to 16,000 parking spaces for about the last 10 years. Thirty-five percent of our students come to school in a single-occupant vehicle. When you compare that to the city of Austin, its number is 75 percent of the people. So [having only 35 percent of students do that] is a really good thing, and that helps us a lot.

DT: Why do you think students complain about parking availability then?
Stone: I think really what the issue is, it’s not so much that we don’t have enough spaces, because on any given day I can show 300 or 400 spaces that are open on campus that people can use. But the spaces we have are not really in the place students want them to be. They’re not the most convenient spaces, and there’s not a whole lot I can do about that.

DT: How do you ensure all parking spaces on campus are used as efficiently as possible?
Stone: What we do is we go out and do lot counts, especially on the most utilized lots. We make sure that the number of parking permits we issue back to a lot is one that allows it to stay full and yet not be so full that people can’t find a place to park. We are also looking at some new technology that is out there that will put some counters on lots. With these you will be able to go and access an application on a smartphone, and it will tell you if spaces were available on that particular lot when you were coming.

DT: What are your recommendations for students having trouble with parking on campus?
Stone: Don’t let your first thought be, ‘jump in the car and drive down here.’ Look at the bus, look at the bikes, look at carpools. UT has an excellent carpooling program, and to be honest, not many students take advantage of it. We also tell you that on those days that you have to come to campus, you should just give yourself a little bit more time and go to the Longhorn Lot. It’s much easier to park there, but you’re going to have to ride the shuttle across.

Printed on October 26, 2012 as: PTS director shares insight