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Friday, July 01, 2022

UF parking and construction: a seemingly dead end

Parking, construction and road closures on UF’s campus continue to create problems for campus commuters.

Students pass Garage 14 on Gale Lemerand Drive on Thursday, Sept. 2, 2021.
Students pass Garage 14 on Gale Lemerand Drive on Thursday, Sept. 2, 2021.

Gabriella Winkler drew her own version of UF's parking map when her family visited campus for her graduation May 1. It was the only way to give them the most updated information on new road closures and routinely overbooked parking lots, she said. 

The on-campus parking struggle is familiar to the 22-year-old UF graduate. When she was a student, UF infirmary’s parking space – or lack thereof — caused Winkler to miss her doctor’s appointment. She opted to address her upper respiratory infection at an Urgent Care clinic, where she coughed up more money than she would’ve if she had found a place to park. 

Even though parking has been a common setback for students, faculty and visitors, campus construction since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic has worsened the problem. As of May 2, parts of Museum Road and its intersection with Gale Lemerand Drive are closed for Summer.

“I feel like I’m just not being valued, even though it is one of the best universities,” Winkler said.

There are four levels of student parking decals: graduate students may park in Green lots, and on-campus residents can park in either Red or Red One lots. Off-campus undergraduates can park in Park-and-Ride lots near Southwest Recreation Center. 

Scooter parking is scattered around campus.

Winkler said she uses her car because of scooter accidents and packed buses.

“Is it worth the risk because they don’t care about us enough to adapt the parking to the amount of influx of students that they’re having?” Winkler asked. “It’s frustrating. It makes you really, really angry, and you’re wondering where all of this money is going.”

Paige Davis, a 21-year-old recent UF graduate, noticed buses became increasingly less accessible once construction began. She took the bus frequently for three years but strayed from using RTS to get to campus because of its unreliability.

She tried parking at the J. Wayne Reitz Union but said she was turned away because the bottom floor was closed.

Associate Director of Transportation and Parking Services Ron Fuller said students want  parking spaces close to where their classes are, and that is not feasible for everyone.

“We’re never going to have that, because we’re never going to have a campus where the core part of campus is going to have a lot of parking again,” Fuller said.

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He said there is adequate parking for off-campus students looking to get to campus, including Park-and-Ride and shuttles that go to the lots.

Fuller doesn’t think the closures and construction should cause a parking concern for students in Fall; he said most of the construction is happening in the core of campus where student parking is minimal.

Kimberly Blum, a 17-year-old incoming freshman, noticed the lack of parking when she first visited campus this year. Blum and her family managed to park at the Reitz Union when they first arrived but were not able to secure parking the rest of the day.

The difficulty to park did not dissuade Blum from attending the university, as she said UF has many positive opportunities for her.

“The parking issue wasn’t too much,” she said. “Just something that I’ll have to deal with later.”

Despite the university’s prestige, its parking and road closures continue to be a concern for students, graduates and visitors alike. Many of the current construction projects causing a lack of reliable, accessible alternatives, such as the one disrupting Museum Road, will continue through 2023.

Contact Lillian Lawson at llawson@alligator.org. Follow her on Twitter @LillianLLawson

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