Parking changes can go farther

Rearranging the commuter lots for increased efficiency and riding the wave of backlash over removal of coin meters off city streets lining the campus’ property is no walk in the park.

We’ve got to give credit where credit is due: The University of Wisconsin-Whitewater is trying. It may not be popular, but lots on the northern side of campus frequently went unused, as ones closer to academic buildings were congested by 8 a.m.

Ticket fees for parking illegally should have gone up – $15 isn’t much of a deterrent for people without permits to stop parking in the areas, but $25 starts to sting.

It’s nice to hear from Police Services Chief Matthew Kiederlen, who is in charge of Parking Services, that they’re actually counting how many permits are in a single lot, since in prior years, permits were sold without regard to what capacity the lots actually held.

These reforms were needed, and yet, they still don’t completely solve the parking problem the university faces, where a deficit of parking is starting to be noticeable. A lack of student knowledge about the changes continues to persist and the methodology for purchasing time to park on campus is outdated.

The largest contributor to this problem is that we as a campus, and as a city, are congested with people needing to park their cars.

The university isn’t alone on having a lack of parking – the mad dash for off-campus students get rent paid so they can get a parking spot in their own parking lots outside their homes or apartment complexes has become much more prevalent.

To add insult to injury, we’ll be losing another 200 parking spaces in March 2018, when a portion of Lot 9 gets shut down for construction on the new residence hall.

What we need, to be blunt, is more parking in general.

We need more parking lots and more spaces. In the 2014 Campus Master Plan, a 600-car parking structure was planned for a portion of Lot 12, close to Heide Hall.

We’re hoping that structure is in the forefront of our campus officials, as they continue to plan out the campus. We cannot continue to grow as a campus, as we’ve reached record enrollment six times in eight years.

While this year’s overall enrollment dipped down by over 200, according to the preliminary numbers on the university’s website, it’s not likely to stagnate, considering our growth trajectory in upcoming years.

Otherwise, we need to have parking lots added on to for a higher capacity of vehicles, or the university should consider allowing students to park in the old Sentry parking lot, which the Whitewater Foundation bought in October 2016 for a Community Outreach Center, and provide a shuttle to campus.

Lack of student awareness about rules and regulations for parking services is another huge part of the problem – and it’s not necessarily all the student’s fault. Each and every day, more and more media – whether in the form of social media, news websites, video games or Netflix shows – is in battle to command our attention. The day is still 24 hours but as a result of all of the information and stimuli surrounding students, things start to fall by the wayside.

Things like reading parking rules and regulations, for example.

The solution here is simultaneously easy (and frustrating, to an extent): You not only have to put parking rules and regulations out there in the world, but you’ve got to take additional steps to put it in the hands of students.

It would be effective to place parking regulations inside student’s WINS accounts so it’s visible on both the desktop and mobile app version. D2L wouldn’t be a bad option either. If you put information in places students already visit, it’s more likely to be read and understood. Having rules and regulations printed on a pamphlet students rarely see or an obscure page on the university’s website makes them more remote from student’s lives, making them easier to ignore.

Then there’s the fact that some means of purchasing parking are outdated. More and more often, students have the luxury of leaving money and credit cards at home, as their smartphone doubles as a wallet. Many of our editors can’t recall the last time they paid for their Starbucks addiction with cash or credit card instead of with the app. Target lets you scan coupons off of your phone in self-checkout lines. Stores like Walgreens and Whole Foods take forms of payment such as Apple Pay and Samsung Pay.

So why should our parking be any different?

UW-Madison has implemented the use of a mobile app called “Parkmobile” that senses when you are near a parking stall on their campus, lets you determine the amount of minutes or hours you need to park there and informs you when your parking meter is almost up. Students pay with their saved credit card off of their phone.

It’s a serious time saver, and unbelievably convenient. It also comes with the benefits of allowing the university to track how many people are parking in a location, and how long they’re staying based on their parking fees.

We can solve our parking problems – the university will need to make parking a priority, and we’ll need to be creative in our solutions.

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