Photo by Sarah Vinci | Due to parking difficulties, beginning in fall 2019, first-year students will not be allowed to bring cars to campus.

Transportation and Parking Services held a forum with the Student Senate Campus Affairs Committee last Thursday to allow students to voice opinions regarding the University’s current parking situation.

The forum was organized by Mark Gall, the Student Senate campus affairs chair. Abigail Rider, the vice president for the division of administration and finance at URI, spoke on behalf of Transportation and Parking Services.

Rider said the parking lottery, which was held last year and caused student drawback, will not occur again. This is because they will no longer advertise to prospective students that they can bring cars for their first year.

“This year we’re just saying new students may not bring cars,” Rider told the audience. “Returning students may bring cars. What that does is it completely puts supply and demand for resident parking in equilibrium. We don’t have to have another lottery. That was a one-time event.”

In addition to all returning students being able to purchase a parking permit, Rider said there will also be enough commuter permits for all students who want one.

“Commuter parking is also in equilibrium,” Rider told the audience. “The one complaint we’ve had is everyone in the world wants to park in the Fine Arts Lot, which isn’t big enough, but except for the first two weeks of school, there is always [commuter] parking available at the Plains Road Lot. That lot has not filled up except maybe the first couple weeks.”

Rider said if commuters are ever unable to find a parking spot, they should call Parking and Transportation Services and alert them. She said the University can use that information to examine patterns regarding space availability in various commuter lots.
Ryan Menard, a member the Student Senate Campus Affairs Committee, said students have inquired about a parking garage on campus. Rider said a parking garage is currently too expensive to build.

“No one is willing to pay what it would cost to build one,” Rider said. “If we have to choose between academic programs and cars, we’re going to pick academics. What could happen over 20 years is the campus certainly will continue to grow, and people’s threshold for what they’re willing to pay for parking will go up as it gets to be more of an issue. Over a 20 year horizon, it is quite likely we would get to multi-level parking.”

Gall questioned if the state could have a referendum to decide whether or not a parking garage should be built on campus. However, Rider said voters are unlikely to approve a parking garage.

Rider said the University has been very successful in the past with referendums because they only ask for funding when it is crucial to the success of the University and the impact it has on the economy and student’s degrees. She said a parking garage does not offer such benefits.

Jay Rumas, a member of the student senate campus affairs committee, said inconsistent campus shuttle service have been a common complaint amongst students.

“One complaint people not only mentioned to us but we also saw with our own eyes was that these shuttles would often all come in a line at one time,” Rumas said. “Three shuttles [would come] at the same time, and they’d leave and then wouldn’t come back for half an hour.”

Rider said Transportation and Parking Services will talk to shuttle operators to make sure they stagger the arrival and departure times of shuttles.

John Bagley, who is also a member of the Student Senate campus affairs committee, said illegal parking in the Fine Arts Lot has been an issue this year.

“I feel as if students have decided to ignore the fact that the lot is full,” Bagley said. “We find a lot of students parking in the driving areas.”

Stephen Baker, the director of Public Safety and chief of police, said campus police have ticketed many students in the Fine Arts Lot because of illegal parking. He said strict enforcement should cause the number of illegal parking incidents to decline.

Andy Boardman, President of URI Democrats, said he does not believe the University needs more parking. He praised Parking and Transportation Services for pushing for more sustainable modes of transportation, such as using public transportation.

“This is my third year living off campus, and my second year living off campus without a car registered on campus,” Boardman said.

Boardman walks or rides his bicycle to school. He has taken advantage of the UPASS program, which allows all students who do not have a car on campus to receive a free Rhode Island Public Transportation Authority (RIPTA) bus pass.

Rider said alternative modes of transportation can save money and are more environmentally friendly. She cited the UPASS program as a convenient and free alternative to using a car. This year, 2,011 students received a UPASS. This doubled from the number of students with a UPASS last school year.

No new parking lots are currently being planned. However, Rider said once the Brookside Apartments are finished, the Dairy Barn Lot will partially reopen for resident parking. Next fall, when construction on the apartments is finished, 450 spots will become available in the lot. The lot can be used by residents of the apartments. Rider estimates 45 percent of the 500 students living in the apartments will bring their car.