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Long-term parking plans

In the first of a two-part series, Director of Parking and Transportation Isaac Astill explains his intentions for parking and the process of having changes made.
Phillip Waller

At the beginning of the fall semester at an Associated Student Body retreat, President Kimbrely Dandridge asked members what frustrated students the most. The answer: parking.

“It was that fast when people said parking,” said Chad Bowman, ASB cabinet executive assistant.

The pre-pharmacy senior from Madison serves on Director of Parking and Transportation Services Isaac Astill’s parking and traffic committee. He became a parking representative for the ASB after Dandridge expressed wanting more information on parking.
Bowman has met with Astill about four times over the semester to discuss the issue.

“I try to let him know what students have been thinking because I hear a lot working with the ASB,” Bowman said. “I think what actually spurred (the meetings) was just hearing people thinking, ‘Nothing is being done with parking.’

“The fact is, stuff is actually being done, and just because you don’t see it doesn’t mean it isn’t happening.”

Astill, who was hired as parking director in July, told The University of Mississippi administration that he needed several months to evaluate the system; the administration had already done parking evaluations the last three years.

“I couldn’t come in in a week and say, ‘Here’s an issue and this is what I want to do,’” Astill said. “I’ve been going around, doing counts, talking to hundreds of people, literally."

“We have done a lot of counts; I’m comparing what the ratios are of how many parking stalls (to) how many people have actually bought those permits.”

Astill has met with several committees on campus to express concerns with parking and has been “weighing in with the administration of what our goals are.”

He said next month he will present a parking plan for next school year, as well as an outline for the next five years for consideration. The administration will then decide if the plan is reasonable and justifiable.

“My overall hope is that we can provide longer shuttle hours during the day,” he said.
“The buses stop at 6:15 (p.m.), but if you have a class that starts at 5:15, you have to drive (to and from) campus,” he said. “By the time you get out of class, the buses are turned off.”

Astill hopes for a shuttle system that operates Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. to provide transportation for students with late classes.

He said parking garages are under consideration, but there are some factors that need to be examined. He said that a parking garage would about $17,000 per stall.

“They’re extremely expensive, and we have to evaluate if that’s really the resource that we want to go to,” he said.
Based on the numbers this year, there are just under 12,000 parking stalls on campus and about 17,000 people who have purchased some type of parking permit.

“(With) our campus, we do need to look at parking garages, but we need to consider if that’s really the best thing.”

Astill said that space isn’t an issue regarding the consideration of parking garages and extra lots.

“Our university does have a lot of room, but it’s also important to keep it in an environment in which it’s pleasing to come to,” he said.

He said it is best to have parking areas on the outskirts, rather than in the center of campus. He also hopes to change the driving culture and start a budget to reward students for riding the bus by keeping documentation and entering them in a drawing for an iPad or a similar incentive.

Astill said the Ole Miss student body is one of the “most respectful” group of students he has encountered and he understands their frustration and concerns.

“I want to help the students understand, we’re not hiding anything,” he said. “I’ll show you where the money is going and how it’s broken up.”

“I’m happy to discuss issues the students have.”

To avoid making parking changes after the semester starts, Astill is working with the Department of Student Housing, who put out a questionnaire to future students asking who will be bringing a vehicle on campus with them.

“So before we even print the permits, we know how many people are coming and a good estimate of what to expect.”