Tension over student parking at the University of Alabama

| June 13, 2013

When enrollment reached a record high of 33,602 last fall and 300 parking spaces were lost due to construction projects, it was easy to predict that tensions over student parking at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa would rise. “Right now it feels like the parking system is taxed to capacity. It’s not horrible, but it’s just about at the most people can handle,” Ford King told The Crimson White, the campus newspaper.

The junior, who is majoring in political science, described parking availability as “really inconsistent.”

University of Alabama's Bryant-Denny stadium

Crimson Tide games are a major regional draw – and add insult to an already injurious parking system. Courtesy Exothermic.

Chris D’Esposito, the university’s director of parking services, is not surprised. The university can and often does oversell student parking permits, but students’ varied class schedules allow it to oversubscribe the permit program.

“The University would love to provide the ability for all students or faculty and staff members to arrive ten minutes before their respective class or office hours begin and find a close proximity parking space, but chances are that is not going to happen,” Esposito said to The Crimson White. “The University is dynamic in nature, so it really depends on an individual’s time management.”

The university offers students two kinds of permits—residential and commercial—for zoned areas. Last academic year it sold almost or above the total number of parking spaces available for residential permits. For instance, it issued 3,295 residential permits for 3,339 parking spaces in Yellow Residential zones.

Faculty parking permit

Clark Kerr once famously defined the university chancellor’s job as providing “…Sex for the students, sports for the alumni, and parking for the faculty.” But not, apparently, parking for the students. From myparkingpermit.com.

Sales for commuter permits tend to exceed the number of available spaces. The most dramatic example during the 2011-2012 school year was in the Red Commuter Northeast zone, where 4,863 permits were issued for 2,978 spaces. However, because permits can be sold, returned, and then resold, the figures are not accurate; the resold permits are counted twice in a tally of total sales.

Although accurate sales numbers aren’t available, those on record suggest the strain under which the university’s parking services are currently operating. They do not, however, reveal the fiscal pressures on the department, which receives no state funds.

“We are responsible for our own expenses, including employee wages and benefits, our equipment, software, etc.,” said D’Esposito.

Currently, the department is paying off a $1 million-plus debt on existing parking decks, and operating costs, which include regular maintenance of surface lots and roadways, as well as yearly subsidies for the payment of transit buses, exceed $2 million dollars annually.

Despite those financial considerations, D’Esposito is committed to keeping permit costs down for students “by using the most economical means,” he said.

parking spots in Tuscaloosa

On-street parking in Tuscaloosa can be hard to come by, too. From Ken Lund.

The university demonstrates that goal through a variety of student parking options. “A surface parking lot is the least expensive, followed by a parking deck. The most expensive would be underground parking,” D’Esposito told The Crimson White.

The university offers parking at surface lots and parking decks, and its rates for residential and commuter permits average between $20 and $25 per month or $245 and $300 annually.

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Category: Education, Parking, Parking management

About the Author ()

Cielo Lutino is a freelance writer and editor based in Brooklyn, NY. She has written for such publications as the L Magazine and Portland Monthly, and her literary nonfiction has appeared in journals such as the Los Angeles Review and Cold Mountain Review.

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