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New Residence Halls Push Commuters to Campus Exterior

Cain Madden

In an effort to make room for the 865 students coming to live on campus in the new residence halls, commuter parking got cut, to the tune of 920 parking spots. Commuter, faculty/staff and resident decals also rose to $85.
In all, resident parking increased by 857 from this past year, still falling short of the total number of students living on campus, and faculty/staff parking has shrunk due to some construction areas on campus.
The biggest issue, Assistant Vice Chancellor Clay Jones said, is that when you grow as fast as Ole Miss has – 33 percent growth in freshmen from 2008 to 2011 – parking spaces can’t be created as fast.
“The campus has really exponentially grown,” Jones said. “We can’t make everybody have front door access in parking under that type of environment.”
Jones said the university does have a plan to allow people to park somewhere and also get these people into the core of campus, such as with the park-and-ride system, which chartered two new bus routes aimed at running between campus and the parking lots every seven minutes during peak hours.
“As we have shifted this year, and we have had to shift — we are not trying to hide that — we have tried to put an emphasis on the students who have elected to be residents on campus,” Jones said. “We believe that for safety reasons, for the fact that they chose to live on campus, that they deserve a place to park as reasonably close to their buildings as they can go.”
Even then, Jones admitted that they had to shift resident parking so that not even all of the residents could park near the front door of their buildings. Jones said this shift meant that somebody, the commuters in particular, had to move to the exterior of the campus.
“There is nothing that can be done about that,” Jones said. “We’re not at all looking at that as some big negative or stigma — it is a fact of growth.”
Any university that has grown as fast as The University of Mississippi, Jones said, would have to ask somebody to move a little further out.
To combat the parking problem, as well as many others relating to transportation, Jones oversaw a committee that led to the development of the new Parking and Transportation department. Before, parking and transportation was housed in many departments, including the university police department, the office of sustainability and campus recreation.
Isaac Astill, who has a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Utah, where he also worked with the commuter service department, was hired to head the new department. Astill said his goal is to come up with a better transportation system for Ole Miss.
“The goal on campus is to have a plan presented and approved later this year that we can implement for next year,” Astill said.
The plan may not be something that is completely implemented next year, but rather, Astill said it may be more like “take these five steps next year, and then an additional few steps the year after that.”
While parking for commuters likely will remain on the exterior of campus, the goal is to make it as convenient as possible.
“We want to provide as many options for people to get into campus and around campus as possible, so it is still convenient and you are not getting stuck in a rainstorm, things of that nature,” Astill said.
Astill also said that a parking garage would be something the university would have to consider, though he said it would come at a great expense, $17,000 to $30,000 per parking stall added.
“You can build a parking garage that looks like a parking garage, or you can build a parking garage that is not an eyesore, and obviously, this campus is focused on keeping a clean and pristine look,” Astill said.
While parking and transportation will run for the most part the same as it was this past year as Astill gets acclimated, there were still some changes. Along with the new bus routes, there are more signs on campus letting students know where they can and cannot park with specific decals.
The first new bus route will run from the South Lot to Kennon Observatory circle and back, via a new road that connects the South Lot to Manning Way. The second route will run from the Jackson Avenue Center, which was formerly known as the Old Mall, down Fraternity Row, around Chapel Lane to Magnolia Drive to return to the Jackson Avenue Center. The park-and-ride decal remained at $20.
“Our plan is to encourage as many people as possible to buy these cheaper permits, park in these exterior lots, with the knowledge and experience that they are going to be able to get on a bus every five to seven minutes and get to campus,” Astill said. “You’ll find that it is a convenient thing, that you are actually getting farther into campus and quicker than it would be for you to park in a commuter lot and walk in.”
Astill also wants the department to be more customer-oriented.
“We want to give the department a face-lift, let people know what we are here for, provide different services and take feedback and continue to better the system,” Astill said.
For more information, you can visit www.olemiss.edu/parking/.