Jeri Baker

Fewer than 16,000 parking spots serve the 75,000 students, faculty and staff who make up the UT community, creating challenges for drivers and Parking and Transportation Services officials.

Every time a new building goes up on top of a parking lot, it leaves fewer spaces to accommodate needs and makes it harder for PTS to cover more than $14.5 million in expenses.

“If 75,000 people decided to come to campus today and said, ‘I’m going to hop in my car and no one’s going to ride in the car with me,’ we would have a big problem,” Jeri Baker, assistant director of PTS, said.

Eleana Galicia, an urban studies senior, parks in the Longhorn Lots on the periphery of campus near Interstate 35 and already sees a problem.

“You’re never going to find parking on campus,” Galicia said. “I really don’t think they have enough parking spaces for everyone.”

Baker said UT does have enough parking spaces, despite the fact that it sold 15,869 more permits than total spaces during fiscal year 2010-2011. UT sold 31,744 parking permits during the year, and the campus has 15,875 spaces.

“Last year there wasn’t a day when people who had a C permit didn’t have a place to park,” Baker said. “Not everyone comes to campus every day.” 

Because commuters are on campus for such short times on different days of the week, PTS Services is able to sell more permits than spaces but regulates sales to make sure there isn’t a parking shortage, Baker said.

“I don’t look strictly at the number of spaces we have,” Baker said. “I look at what the utilization of those spaces are. The worst thing you can do is walk past a space and wonder why you can’t buy a permit for that space.”

Michelle Hodge, a Spanish and UTeach junior, said as long as she arrives early she has plenty of spots to choose from in the C lots, where she parks Monday, Wednesday and Friday. She said she would  automatically go to the Longhorn Lots if the C lots were regularly full when she arrives, although she sees many people who don’t do this.

“I think a lot of people don’t want to go to the Longhorn Lots because of having to take the shuttle or make the long walk over to campus,” Hodge said. “I think a lot of people, if there is not parking in the C parking, will opt for street parking or drive around forever waiting for someone to come to their car and leave.”

The more parking passes PTS sells, the lower prices are, Baker said. The entity receives no funding from the University and is self-funded from the revenue it generates selling passes and issuing citations. Each year it estimates its expenses prices parking fees just high enough to break even, Baker said.

In the 2010-2011 fiscal year, the organization’s total revenue was almost $16.9 million. Garage parking revenue accounted for $9,763,119. Students, faculty and staff purchased 9,163 regular permits to park cars in garages during normal operating hours of the University. The University has 8,159 garage parking places available in its nine garages.

Surface parking accounted for $3,628,466 in total revenue during the same year. Students, faculty and staff purchased 13,139 permits that granted them daytime access to University regular car parking spaces. UT has 7,716 surface parking spaces.

Many permits are already priced in the hundreds of dollars.

“For a lot of students even the price of a C permit is a lot,” Galicia said.

The least expensive daytime car permit for students is the C permit, costing $110 per academic year. It was the most popular permit in the 2010-2011 fiscal year. PTS sold 5,361 C permits that year. The R permit, which allows students who live on campus to park in garages, costs $743 per year. In the same year, 1,739 students purchased R permits.

The least expensive daytime regular faculty/staff permit was the $138 A permit. PTS sold 4,555 A permits in the 2010-2011 fiscal year. The most expensive daytime permit for regular faculty/staff was the F surface lot permit, which cost $464 per year. Faculty and staffed purchased 1,780 F surface lot permits during the year.

Administrators and operators of the University paid the highest for parking in the fiscal year at $775. Deans and athletics staff also paid $775 for F99 and F21 permits. These highest-priced permits were purchased by 191 staff. 

Currently 30 percent of student fees, or $55 per student each academic year, goes to PTS to pay for faculty and student ridership on UT shuttle buses, according to the department’s documents.

With 7.5 million student, faculty and staff boardings annually, Baker said Capital Metro service cost the department more than $6,160,000 last year.

The shuttle, carpool, bicycling and other methods of transporting people to campus are critical to maintaining the transportation situation at UT, Baker said. Because other buildings surround the UT campus and limit places to build new facilities, parking lots are prime targets for demolition. Baker said every new building constructed in recent years except the Almetris Duren Residence Hall have been built on a former parking lot.

“Every time we lose spaces to construction, I’ve got to convince more people to take Cap Metro,” Baker said. “I’ve got to convince more people that riding on their bike is a good idea. I’ve got to convince more people to join the carpool.”

Currently 35 percent of students come to campus in a single-occupancy vehicle, and in Austin, 75 percent of people who answered the latest census said they commute via single-occupancy vehicle, Baker said.

Building garages to accommodate more parking is not a viable option because it is cost-prohibitive, Baker said. Prices to construct a garage on the UT campus can be as much as $25,000 to $30,000 per space, she said.

“Building a garage is expensive,” Baker said. “I don’t want that to be the first thing people think of. If I build a garage, I have to pay for it. I don’t have a magic pot of money where I can snap my fingers and say the garage is paid for.”

The San Jacinto Garage, opened in 1986, is the only garage of nine on campus for which PTS has fully paid back the loan, Baker said. The University is going to open a new garage in the area Players Restaurant and other noncampus buildings currently occupy. The garage will have 525 spaces, and PTS does not yet know how much it will cost.

In 2010-2011, debt service accounted for $6,358,098 of the total $8,199,046 in operating expenses for PTS. It also had $542,154 in capital expenses, which pays for maintenance on vehicles, buildings and equipment. Salary and wage expense for the year totaled $5,810,160.

Because UT patrons pay fees to access their parking, PTS wants to protect it, Baker said. Issuing citations helps accomplish that, she said.

“I think there’s this big misconception of enforcement hiding behind the bushes, just waiting until you leave to jump out and start writing a ticket,” Baker said. “That’s not what we do. We’re protecting the space you paid for.”

PTS was not able to provide the Texan with an amount of revenue generated by citations 2010-2011 fiscal year. However, in its 2005-2006 parking report, it stated 12 percent of its revenue came from citations and metered parking. In 2010-2011, the department issued 35,489 citations. Of those, 7,737 were appealed, according to PTS documents. PTS upheld 40 percent of appealed citations. The department reduced 38 percent, voided 1 percent and converted 19 percent into warnings.

Baker encourages students to appeal tickets. She said she reads every citation issued, whether or not the recipient appeals. Sometimes appellees not only have a valid excuse but also provide information on improving parking.

“Through the appeal process I make changes to signs so they are worded more clearly,” Baker said. “I find out there are signs covered by branches. I find out the paint on the ground is getting faded. Through this process I get to make changes that benefit everybody in the long run.”

Baker also said it’s important to give PTS feedback to improve the campus transit system.

PTS changed the flow of traffic in lot 80, next to Darrell K Royal-Memorial Stadium, because of a user suggestion, Baker said. Often PTS adds motorcycle parking in places users suggest, Baker said.

PTS will do everything it can to make the parking situation better, Baker said.

“PTS is usually viewed as the bad guy,” Baker said. “We issue citations. We make people pay to park on campus. But this staff is committed to providing outstanding customer service.”

Whether people view PTS as the villain or not, the department has the monumental task of making sure everyone is able to make it to campus each day. The current situation is far from ideal, but it’s something UT and PTS have to manage, Baker said. 

“Everyone wants to park right outside where they work or where they go to school,” Baker said. “That’s not reality on this campus.” 

Printed on Friday, October 26, 2012 as: Without space to expand, concerns will continue

Aiming to integrate sustainability with UT’s needs and identity, UT officials met Friday and presented additions to the campus master plan designed to make the University more environmentally friendly.

Members of the UT community presented research and proposals at the University’s third annual sustainability symposium Friday. David Rea, campus planning and capital projects management director, said UT is focusing on eight areas to accommodate population growth and revitalize the core campus using sustainable methods. There are three phases to the plan, including identifying campus needs, exploring sustainability options and review and implementation of the final plan. UT is currently in the first phase of the plan and hopes to implement it in upcoming years.

Rea said aspects of the plan include forging strategic partnerships with businesses and neighborhoods in surrounding areas and facilitating safer and more efficient mobility on campus, among other initiatives.

Jeri Baker, assistant director of parking and transportation services, said UT plans to increase environmentally friendly forms of transportation on campus by encouraging students to ride bicycles, join carpool programs and ride Capital Metro buses when commuting to and from campus.

“It’s time for everyone to embrace the idea that having burnt orange blood on this campus is the same thing as bleeding green,” she said.

Only people who register their bicycles are allowed to park them on campus. Baker said more than 10,000 bicycles are registered with Parking and Transportation Services. She said the University hopes to encourage more students, faculty and staff to ride bicycles by holding bicycle sales and waiving the registration fee.

Baker said UT has about 75,000 daily commuters but only about 15,000 parking spaces, and UT is trying to encourage commuters to carpool. She said UT’s carpool program currently has 1,100 members.

Steve Kraal, associate vice president for campus planning and facilities management, said the University plans to reduce campus energy use by 20 percent. To do this, it will derive 5 percent of its electricity, or 17 million kilowatt hours, from alternative energy such as solar power.

Kraal said UT also plans to reduce its water consumption to 20 percent by 2020. He said the University currently uses 900 million gallons and reclaims 100 billion annually.

In addition, Kraal said the University aims to derive 40 percent of its water usage from reclaimed sources and divert 90 percent of campus waste from landfills by emphasizing recycling.

“[Recycling] will require a significant change in campus behavior,” Kraal said.

In August, The Daily Texan reported UT produced 140,000 pounds of trash and 66,400 pounds of recyclable waste per week during the spring semester.

Jim Walker, office of sustainability director, said the University aims to implement single-stream recycling, a method that allows recyclable materials to be deposited in the same bin. UT’s Division of Housing and Food Service is currently implementing single-stream recycling in residential and dining halls across campus.

Architecture professor Lawrence Speck said he does not think using less energy and fewer resources is a sacrifice. For example, he said he stopped using fluorescent lighting in his office, which makes it easier for him to see his computer screen and makes conversations with students and faculty more engaging.

“It’s not a sacrifice, it’s an asset to your life,” Speck said.

Printed on Monday, September 24, 2012 as: UT reiews plans for campus sustainability

Students attend a meeting to voice concerns about parking and transit on campus Tuesday afternoon.

Photo Credit: Danielle Villasana | Daily Texan Staff

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.”  

Junior civil engineer Andrew Watkins searches for a parking spot in a C-Lot behind the Rec center Wednesday afternoon. “It’s a nightmare if you don’t get here early,” he said.

Photo Credit: Lawrence Peart | Daily Texan Staff

Levi Sturgis is on the prowl. He guns his black Corolla’s engine and cruises down a straightaway in one of the student parking lots on campus. A truck, an SUV and a pack of students cross at the intersection in front of him. Sturgis looks left and right, plotting his next move. It’s 10:50 a.m. — the lot is sure to be buzzing with action soon.

Sturgis, an engineering junior, almost turns left, but he surveys the path ahead and stops.

“Nah, I’m going straight. I’m going straight,” he decides. Then he whips the steering wheel back again with one hand and guides his car down the long aisle of filled parking spaces.

“I saw a lot of cars going that way,” he explains matter-of-factly. “I feel like they’re going to that C-Lot, so I didn’t want to go to there.”

For students like Sturgis who have an orange C permit dangling from their rear-view mirrors — 5,627 of them in 2009-2010, according to UT’s Parking and Transportation Services’ most recent annual report — a parking lot strategy like Sturgis’ is a common scenario. C permit holders have access to more than 3,000 on-campus parking spaces, but as the PTS website points out before students buy a C permit, “Purchase of a permit may not guarantee a parking place on campus.”

To some students who are late for class, those words are ominous.

“If you’re not here before around 8:30, you’re not in luck, normally,” Sturgis said. “You have to go on the hunt and the prowl. And if you’re really close to class time, that’s when it gets bad.”

Essentially, having an “early bird gets the worm” kind of mentality helps when parking in the student parking lots, which include four C permit parking areas (commonly referred to as “C-Lots”) near the stadium and several Longhorn Lots across Interstate Highway 35, near the baseball fields. There are 866 parking spaces available to C permit holders in the C-Lots and 2,389 spaces in the Longhorn Lots, which anyone with one of UT’s 22 different types of parking permits has access to (32,380 parking permits were issued in 2009-2010).

Jeri Baker, assistant director of PTS, said besides arriving early enough to get a spot, students should make sure to check out the Longhorn Lots, where there are generally lots of open spaces. The East Campus UT shuttle bus is available to transport students to campus from those lots.

“Parking is an issue, yes, if by ‘parking is an issue’ you mean ‘will there always be a spot outside the door where I want to be?’” said Baker. “That’s not going to happen. But [PTS] does lot counts daily, and there are usually about 300 spaces left.”

These counts, conducted by PTS employees who record the number of empty parking spaces in on-campus parking lots at different times each day, are designed to identify underutilized lots so that PTS can direct drivers to park there. Dennis Delaney, parking services manager, said that parking lot counts allow for PTS to see if new parking areas should be constructed in the instance that there are too many drivers for the spaces to accommodate.

“When we have gotten tight in the past, we have provided additional spaces through the construction of garages,” Delaney said. “By doing lot counts, we create data that has value for historic purposes, allows us to respond to the claim ‘that there is no parking’ and strategically plan for future parking needs.”

While PTS tries to make parking more available to everyone, Sturgis said there’s no denying the benefit of arriving to campus sooner rather than later. Every weekday morning, while other folks drink coffee, read the newspaper and park elsewhere, Sturgis and many of his fellow C permit holders wake up early to prowl, cruise and battle over the asphalt aisles. Anyone who shows up late might be doomed to wander the rows, waiting for a spot to open up.

Sturgis glances down at the digital clock. It’s 10:53. “I’ve got about 37 minutes ’til my class.”

Let the countdown begin.

He patrols another row, eyes alert as he scouts for a space. The whole time he’s driving and surveying the landscape, Sturgis talks about how he’s had to miss class because of parking problems a couple of times before, especially in the beginning of the semester. That’s when last spring’s C permits hadn’t expired yet, but the new fall 2011 permits were still being issued, so there were even more C-Lot parkers fighting for a space.

Sturgis spots a tall man about 50 yards away, fiddling with his bags by his closed car door.

“You’ll see a person walking in the lot,” Sturgis says as he takes a determined left and drives in the direction of the man. “And you know, you like lock on, and all the other cars will see it too, and you kind of jockey for positions.”

Sturgis rolls up alongside the man and mouths, “Are you leaving? Are you chilling? Are you leaving?” into his closed window, moving his hands back and forth to get the point across. The man signals that he’s actually just putting a bag in his car. Sturgis turns away from the window and continues the hunt. He says that he doesn’t like to bother people too much if he can help it, but being late to class and not having anywhere to park can make people more aggressive.

“I’ve definitely seen times when people will roll down the window and say, ‘Hey, are you parking here?’” Sturgis says as he drives on. “And a lot of times, you’ll see a person just sitting there. And they’re seriously just parked, waiting for walkers. And then as someone starts walking to their car, they’ll just trail ‘em. Like at two miles an hour — just trail ‘em.”

Sturgis believes this to be the true definition of prowling. It’s a technique that he said anyone who knows anything about parking in the C-Lots employs. However, Sturgis said prowling can backfire if the target is just going back to his or her car to get something. False alarms like that are disheartening to students who are late for class, Sturgis said. He’s no stranger to the feeling.

“The girl ended up getting a yoga mat out of her car and then left,” Sturgis recalls. “It was disappointing.”

Another group of students are walking towards the parking lot that Sturgis is patrolling. His eyes narrow a little bit, and he circles back around in order to tail them. As he races to get in prowling position, he says that it’s a risky move to turn back in order to get behind a group of pedestrians. If they turn out not to be leaving, the driver that went back for them ends up giving up his or her position and wasting time.

“You’re looking for the pole position here,” he says.

Lucky for Sturgis, the students spread out and go to different cars. He follows one of them and waits patiently about 20 feet in the distance. He’s still on guard, however, against potential “spot-stealers,” as he calls them. These are the people that blatantly take another driver’s chosen spot “from right under their nose.” However, people like this aren’t too common, Sturgis acknowledges. In his experience, he has always found people to be respectful of others’ territory.

The targeted pedestrian gets in his car and begins to leave. Sturgis lets out a whoop and pulls in.

“11:17!” he exclaims. “Plenty of time to get to class.”

Printed on September 22, 2011 as: Limited parking puts students on 'prowl'