The lack of available parking spaces on campus has created issues for University of Mississippi students. The university’s Parking and Transportation Services Department plans to fix these issues in the upcoming year.
As the university’s student body grows each year, space is limited. Due to the increase in freshmen class, parking is more limited now than ever before.
This year, 435 students in the residential area were displaced. They parked their cars off campus by Whirlpool trails and rode a bus onto campus.
The university sold 7,258 commuter parking decals for $150 each this year. There were only 3,290 spots available, because throughout the day, there’s a three-time turnover, meaning new spots open up depending on a student’s class schedule.
The campus has designated parking lots for each designated decal. The problem with the commuter lots is that they are far away from all of the buildings, making it difficult for students to get to class.
“I have to leave an hour or two before class to ensure I get a spot and get to class on time,” said Ole Miss sophomore, Hollon Beasley.
“Students always say there is nowhere to park, but what they really should say is that there is nowhere convenient to park,” said director of Parking and Transportation, Mike Harris.
The Parking and Transportation Department became an individual department three years ago. Harris began working for the department a year and eight months ago.
This past summer, they built a parking garage by the Pavilion. The parking garage is five stories tall and has 829 available spaces for students, faculty and visitors. A person can purchase a pass for the year for $550 or pay to park daily in the garage.
“I bought the parking pass for the parking garage, and it was the best decision I could’ve made,” said Ole Miss sophomore, Hadley Wallace. “I am guaranteed a parking spot at any time during the day.”
The university also offers a transit system that is available to students and faculty called the Oxford University Transit, or the OUT bus. The buses pick up and drop off in different locations.
It’s recommended that a student get on the bus 40 minutes prior to when they need to be on campus. Students have problems with the bus system, because they’re unaware when the bus will arrive or if it is at full capacity.
“I have tried to take the bus to school because it’s hard for me to find a spot,” said Beasley. “But I can’t ever fully count on the bus to get me to campus because I don’t know if it has reached capacity or when it will arrive.”
“Cheap, enough and convenient are three things a person will never have all together, especially when it comes to parking and transportation,” said Harris. “We have made several plans to better the system at Ole Miss.”
The university built a new residential hall and is in the process of building two new ones. Harris said the department plans to build a parking garage behind Kincannon Hall that is strictly for residential parking. Residential students will no longer have to park and ride to and from campus.
The department also plans to create an “internal transit loop” bus system that will make it easier for students and faculty to get to different locations on campus. The loop has stops in nearly every location, which will help students that have to park far away from campus in the commuter lot.
This system will be available in the fall semester of 2017. Because students have difficulty knowing when the OUT bus will come, shelters are going to be built over the bus stops at Kennon Observatory and by the student union.
These shelters will have screens that have an ETA of each bus. The stop by the observatory will be called the “south hub” and the stop by the union will be called the “north hub.”
The renovations needed for the growing size of the university come at a cost. The campus is surrounded by buildings and highways, so there’s nowhere to go but up. The projects that the department is working on, are not cheap.
“Every dollar the department makes goes right back out to help pay for parking and transit,” said Harris. “We are a stand alone department and internal business, so all the money we receive is from parking permits and citations.”
The department uses multi-year bonds to pay for new renovations. The new garage will cost around $35 million. Each year, it costs around $1 million to pay for the transit system and $800,000 for maintenance.
Less citations were given this year than last because this past summer, spots were repainted, curbs were repainted, and more signs indicating each lot were put up. It is clear where students and faculty are able to park.
An app was also created that indicates which lots are full, have a little availability, and have several spots open. This helps students so they don’t have to waste time looking for parking spots.
“My job is to take all the assets we have and make the most of them,” said Harris. “We work well with the university, and we have to make the decisions we make to accommodate for the growing size of the university.”
Most of the changes will begin at the end of this school year, and will be available to students in the Fall of 2017. People will always have controversial opinions when it comes to parking and transportation.
“This department is a work in progress, and each year, we’re learning,” said Harris. “We are generating new ideas to be as beneficial to the university as we can.”