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15 September 2011

Forum attempts to address parking grievances

Since the university’s new parking system was implemented several weeks ago, complaints by the UM community have been heard from all corners of campus.

In order to address permit holders’ grievances, Student Government (SG) hosted a parking forum on Tuesday afternoon featuring Richard Sobaram, director of the Department of Parking and Transportation.

The program allowed students to directly address Sobaram by asking questions and making suggestions about the parking system.

“I think there were a lot of students who understood that there’s no easy solution and no easy fix to it, but they still want to know that something is being done to fix any problems that exist,” SG Press Secretary Mike Piacentino said.

A theme of the forum was students’ complaints about the expansiveness of the yellow zone, which stretches from the Wellness Center to the Mahoney/Pearson garage.

According to Piacentino, students who park in the yellow zone have expressed concern that there may be available parking spots, but they are in unpopular lots far from common destinations on campus. At the forum, students suggested dividing the zone into smaller sections in order to avoid hunting for a spot.

“People aren’t complaining about where they want to park, they just don’t know where to park every day,” he said.

Students recommended introducing a new lottery system to yellow permit holders which would allow them to choose one of the smaller divisions within the yellow zone.

“It makes total sense in theory to split the yellow zone,” said Ashley Taggart, SG vice president, during the forum. “But … all those people who show up to Pavia at 8 a.m. and get their space in Pavia, they’re going to be in the same lottery that we want to be in and they may not get the Pavia parking garage they’re parking in right now. So they’re going to be very upset if they end up all the way at the other end of the BUC.”

Other students suggested that Sobaram set up short-term “flex spots” in color zones that would allow permit holders of a different color to park in designated spaces for classes or meetings. For instance, a yellow permit holder could park in one of the limited number of flex spots in the red zone for a class in the LC.

According to Sobaram, only less than 5 percent of the 10,000 parking permit holders have communicated their thoughts about the new parking system. Still, he said, “As many that have expressed dissatisfaction have [also] expressed satisfaction.”

“We’re looking at how soon we can make improvements,” he said. “We’ve completely turned the system on its head. We’re trying to change the culture and that’s never easy.”

Sobaram said one of the improvements currently in progress is the installment of two new floors in Pavia, which would introduce more than 300 new spots. Although he stated at the forum that the floors will be built over this year’s winter break, in a later interview he denied there being a set construction plan.

“We don’t know what the timeline is going to be,” he said. “We may start as early as winter break, [but] we don’t have a project schedule as yet.”

Still, permit holders are hoping for a quicker solution to their parking problems.

“I think that Mr. Sobaram was receptive and realistic,” said senior Madeline Keller, who attended Tuesday’s forum. “But I hope he addresses the issues immediately instead of waiting.”

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