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Friday, April 19, 2024

COVID-19 opens up parking spots for students still on campus

Graphic for UF Parking

Fewer students purchased parking decals this semester, piling on a third semester of losses for UF Transportation and Parking Services.

TAPS sold 25% less decals to students and faculty this semester than in Spring 2020, director Scott Fox said. With fewer students on campus this semester due to the COVID-19 crisis and online classes, TAPS has cut down on spending.

“That revenue has to pay for salaries,” he said. “It has to pay for lighting bills on all our parking garages. It has to pay the debt for our parking garages.”

TAPS is an auxiliary service, Fox said. All of the department expenses, from staff to construction, are paid for by the department’s revenue.

Even with decreased decal sales, Fox said the service is making enough to sustain itself. The department froze hiring, held off on equipment purchases and delayed replacing old vehicles. The hiring freeze has occurred since the university wide freeze in March.

Sidney Ho, a 19-year old UF biology sophomore, parks her white Toyota Camry at Reitz Student Union’s parking garage every Friday for her organic chemistry lab.

Last semester, Ho left an hour early to visit on-campus friends. When she couldn’t find a spot after circling parking lots and garages, she would drive back to her off-campus house and take the bus. Now, she only needs to leave 20 minutes early. 

“It was really hard to get a spot, I had to circle around a couple times, but this semester I was always able to get a spot,” she said.

When UF canceled on-campus classes in Spring 2020 due to COVID-19, TAPS lost over $1 million in decal refunds. It also stopped charging for decals over the Summer.

“From April through the Summer we received no decal revenue,” Fox said. “That’s the primary source of our revenue.”

The department has not used its savings again since making up for the refunds, Fox said. It is waiting to see how many decals will be purchased next semester with more in-person classes.

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Not everyone is pleased with parking this semester.

Molly Pringle, an 18-year-old UF business administration freshman, said finding spaces around her residence hall is still hard.

For the first month of the semester, Pringle couldn’t find any Red 3 spots for her silver Ford Fusion near Yulee Hall. Red 3 is a decal reserved for on-campus students who have completed less than 50 college credits.

She parked on Fraternity Row, a 20-minute walk, for the first month of the semester. She didn’t use her car but walked to and from the Tri Delta sorority house.

After a month, she found parking spots at the Norman Parking Garage but still doesn’t use her car often.

“There's never any spots for my decal. I wish I had the option to buy another decal,” she said. “I'd even pay more money.”

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Lianna Hubbard

Lianna Hubbard is a reporter for The Alligator’s Investigative Team. The UF women’s study major began as a freelance reporter three years ago. She founded her community college’s award-winning newspaper before beginning at The Independent Florida Alligator. See an issue in your community or a story at UF? Send tips to her Twitter.

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