Parking problems abound at UM

Class starts at 9:30 a.m.

It is now 9:15 a.m. and the parking lot in the School of Communication is completely full.

Parking at the Ponce de Leon and Pavia garages and riding the Hurry ‘Cane shuttles can take up to another half an hour. Walking is even longer.

Many commuter students face this same scene every day as they compete with others to park closest to the Memorial Classroom Building and the Whitten Learning Center.

According to Janet Gavarrete, associate vice president of campus planning, there are more than enough spaces to park on the Coral Gables campus.

“There isn’t parking when you want it to be and where you want it to be to just get out of the car and go to class,” Gavarrete said.

She said that parking is monitored daily and there are 500 spaces open at any given time of the day. Richard Sobaram, director of parking and transportation services, said that 1,200 parking spots go unclaimed on campus every day.

“The parking spaces are there,” Sobaram said. “They’re definitely available. Students just have to plan ahead.”

Earlier this year, the parking lot by the School of Business closed and was reassigned as green space for the university until construction for the Miguel B. Fernandez Family Entrepreneurship Building begins later this year or early 2010. This parking lot was made temporarily available in 2006 while construction for the 400-space Serpentine Parking Lot in front of the BankUnited Center was underway until the summer of 2008.

“I think it’s a good thing that the university is trying to go green,” said Constanza Covarrubias, who started a Facebook group and an online petition to re-open the School of Business parking lot. “But it puts all the students at an inconvenience and makes parking and going to class almost impossible. There’s more need for parking than there is for a green area, in my opinion.”

Covarrubias started the Facebook group “Let’s do something about the parking situation at UM…at least complain” the second week of class. The group boasts 640 members and 45 comments. She also began an online petition that currently has more than 250 signatures.

“I want to be prepared with a formal letter of complaint and 400 signatures,” she said. “Have something big prepared and be taken seriously by parking and transportation.”

Students’ complaints revolve around the fact that while parking may be available, it is on the periphery of campus and not close to the main classroom buildings.

“The BankUnited Center is at least 15 minutes away from everything else,” Covarrubias said. “And then there’s walking to class in the Miami heat and rain.”

Sobaram said that students face a variety of options to find parking. In an e-mail to The Miami Hurricane, he advised students to get to school early, park at the Ponce de Leon Garage, take the shuttle to campus and hang out at the library until the beginning of class.

“Catch up on your homework,” he said.

According to Sobaram, the surface lot in the Mahoney/Pearson residential complex is available for commuters. He also emphasized that the first few weeks of the semester are not indicative of the usual parking situation on campus. Parking permit enforcement started this past Monday. Until that day, cars were allowed to park on campus indiscriminately without getting a ticket.

“I personally went out because I wanted to see what the first day of real parking would be like and I found around 200 parking spots across campus,” Sobaram said.

Lila Albizu can be contacted at