Last night, students like junior Constanza Schubert sacrificed a few hours of summer shuteye and scrambled to miami.edu/parking at midnight.
“I logged in at midnight exactly,” she said. “I had to wait 40 minutes to get my permit.”
Schubert and about a thousand other students rushed to the university’s parking website to purchase a parking permit for the upcoming academic year.
Though the permit rush relieved some students, like Schubert, who was able to score a red zone permit, others were left disappointed.
This year, the permit system required students to log in and wait in a digital queue called a “permit lobby.” Students were assigned a spot in line and were required to wait to get to the end of the line.
Richard Sobaram, director of Parking and Transportation, said that last night’s permit-purchasing system was the same as previous years since the parking areas were divided into colored zones in 2011.
“Instead of 2000 transactions happening at the same time, there were only about 600 at a time,” he said. “The system did not change, but it may have take longer.”
Sobaram and the parking department believed that they corrected the main problem from previous years after receiving feedback from students. Last year, Sobaram said he heard many complaints about not being able to log in and enter the site.
This year, the permit lobby ensured that students were able to access the site, despite the increased waiting times.
Student Government (SG) Vice President Justin Borroto felt that the system was much better than previous years.
“Compared to last year, this system was a huge improvement,” he said. “The system did not crash and the counter told you exactly how far in line you were to purchase your ticket. Even if you had to wait, you were kept updated to the progress of your status in line.”
While waiting, students turned to Facebook to express their feelings on the permit lobby. Many students disliked the new system.
Senior Brittany Shankerson described the permit lobby as “silly.”
“I live in the UV, and I just want my free permit so I can park in the UV garages,” she said. “I shouldn’t be in the same waiting queue as students who actually need to purchase a permit to park in a zone.”
Schubert and senior Cindy Ferreiro were more worried about the long waiting time and the late hour at which the permits became available for sale.
“I did get the zone I wanted which was pink. This was however after an hour of waiting,” Ferreiro said. “I wish that the time would have been a more reasonable one, so as not to have to stay up so late when I had to work the next day.”
Sobaram did not understand why students like Shankerson, who are living in the UV, were entering the system last night to buy a permit for a zone that is already guaranteed.
“There was no reason for them to be online,” he said. “They were clogging the system. That was the biggest problem. Folks were going online when they didn’t need to be online.”
This “clogging” sometimes caused students to be removed from the line. A page refresh would take the student to the back of the line.
Unlike Shankerson’s default parking permit in the UV area, students began the permit hunt early at midnight to acquire the coveted permits for zones near the academic core.
The academic core comprises of the major campus locations north of Lake Osceola. These locations include the Memorial classroom buildings, Richter Library, Cox Science Center, Frost School of Music and the Law School. The new Student Activities Center that opens this August is also located within the “core.”
Students are competing for the 30 percent of parking spots available where 90 percent of classes are held, Sobaram said.
“We have an academic core,” he said. “There is always going to be a demand there.”
Two minutes after the official 12:01 a.m. starting line, the coveted purple zones near these areas were sold out. Only 61 permits were available for this zone after faculty and staff were given exclusive access to purchase permits a week earlier. The total number of purple zone permits is 350.
“It was almost as bad as winning the lottery,” Sobaram said. “Ninety-seven percent of students were not able to get the purple zone.”
The small amount of permits for the purple zone is also a result of the construction of a new music building.
The next closest area to the core is the red zone that is near the School of Communication and the School of Nursing and Health Studies. The red zone has a total of 2,000 permits and was sold out by 10 a.m. today.
Changing the system
According to Sobaram, the Parking Department has discussed ways to change the current online permit system. Sobaram has proposed an alternative system that allows students to enter the permit-purchasing site depending on their class registration appointment times.
Students, like Schubert, can see the advantage of this registration-like system but doubts that it will solve all problems.
“I guess assigning a certain amount of people a purchase time would prevent an overflow, but the issue comes in those who got a later time will probably not be able to purchase the most popular zones, like pink and red,” she said.
Schubert chose the red zone because of the vicinity to her classes in the Memorial and Engineering Buildings.
Another option would involve a different log in time for each zone.
Sobaram met with SG and the Association of Commuter Students to get their feedback about parking last semester. He encourages students to reach out to the department and share their concerns.
“We take your feedback seriously,” he said. “You guys are the customers. It’s the way to improve the system.”
SG also encouraged students to share their thoughts on the parking permit sale system through a Facebook status that was posted last night. Borroto feels that this is the first of many steps that will help students reach out to SG to resolve problems such as parking.
“We want to continue this trend as other issues of concern to students rise throughout the year,” he said. “We want to continually create a forum where the student body feels connected to SG in a way where they can readily express their concerns.”
Sobaram mentioned that many disappointed students called the Department of Parking and Transportation this morning to express their concerns. For students who were not able to get the desired permit in red or purple, he advises that they choose another parking option.
“The department cannot make spaces available for those who were not able to get a permit,” he said. “There are 1,000 empty spaces each day on campus. Everyone who wants to park on campus will be able to park. The issue is that you might not get the zone you wanted.”
To contact Sobaram or the Department of Parking and Transporation, email email@example.com, call 305-284-3096, or visit the department’s website at miami.edu/ref/index.php/parking_and_transportation.
The Miami Hurricane staff discussed this topic and put together an editorial on the parking permit sales. To read it, click here.