University of Mississippi student Liz Rainer said it’s sometimes impossible to find a parking space on campus.
“This year, I moved into a house only a mile away, and have chosen to walk most days to avoid that stress,” she said.
“Residential,” “commuter” and “park-and-ride” are all terms UM students are familiar with when driving to campus. The university is quickly growing, and Parking and Transportation Department workers are doing their best to keep up with the growing student body. In the first story of a series on parking, we asked students what parking issues they face.
Every day, students frantically circle parking lots hoping to find a spot in time for classes, but many do not make it in time. While students blame the parking department for this problem, department workers have a better understanding of what’s happening.
The Parking and Transportation Department is a UM auxiliary department, which means the university does not give the department any funds from tuition or the state. This department is funded by the sale of parking permits, parking meters on campus, the campus parking garage and parking tickets.
UM parking permits are based on whether or not students live on campus and what building they live in. Seniors get to purchase permits first, and freshmen, last. Students may purchase permits over the summer, and there are different options at different price points.
Mike Harris, director of UM Parking and Transportation, understands that not everyone will be able to afford parking permits set at one price point, so he makes sure there are several options for students from all financial backgrounds.
Permit prices range from $88 to $850 so students and faculty can find a pass that works best for them. Harris said UM parking permits are cheaper than other schools in the South.
“Our passes are 50 percent less than the average of other schools in the South like UM,” Harris said, ”and we do not require a bus fee for our students like they do at other schools.”
Harris said the Department of Parking and Transportation is working every day to find new solutions to help students find parking spaces and to create new places to park. This year, there are two new parking lots by the track and field arena, and they are working on a new parking garage to open in the fall of 2017.
For bus riders, there is a new bus hub across from the Turner Center that has routes from the Oxford community to campus, and Harris said it has improved route times. The department will open a second bus hub when the Student Union reopens, and Harris said that will greatly decrease the amount of time the Oxford University Transit buses are on campus, getting them back out into Oxford quicker. Having the two bus hubs will require only four buses to run on campus at all times.
The department is also working with a parking app called “Parker” that can be downloaded from the App Store. This app shows students real-time parking updates, and which lots are full or have open parking spaces.
“Parking on campus is all about timing,” Harris said. “It is all about leaving early for your classes and knowing when campus is most busy.”
There is also the option to park at the Jackson Avenue Center to ride the OUT bus to campus or ride the bus from different bus stops around Oxford. In the 2015-2016 school year, the OUT bus transported over one million students to campus.
Rainer said said the OUT bus was a convenient method of transportation. “Last year, I rode the OUT bus from my apartment to campus all the time because it was more convenient than searching for a place to park,” Ranier said.
Some students may feel that the Department of Parking and Transportation is out to get them and not doing anything to solve the parking issues they face daily, but Harris said the department is working every day to make little improvements that will soon make a huge difference. It’s an issue that cannot be solved over night.