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Engineering firm looks into parking problems

Jan. 25, 2001

Researcher: Students often overlook 15,000 Ferrell Center spaces


Staff writer

An engineering firm has finished collecting preliminary data Wednesday for a parking study ordered by Baylor Building Facilities, but improvements are unlikely to occur this semester.

A team of five from Wilbur Smith Associates, based out of Dallas, collected data Tuesday and Wednesday from 7 a.m. through 5:15 p.m. in an effort to determine whether more parking is needed on campus. They will also be taking a student survey through the Baylor Web site or directly through the Wilbur Smith Associates Web site, www., to better understand why students park where they do.

'My first impression is that there is plenty of parking -- it just isn't being used,' said Michael Schrader, a member of the team. He said there was more than 1,500 parking spaces that were not being used at the Ferrell Special Events Center.

None of the students interviewed knew about the parking at the Ferrell Center but said they would not park there anyway because of the distance from campus.

The Tuesday data showed most parking lots to be full from 9 a.m. through 3:30 p.m. The Wednesday data showed most parking lots around central campus to be full from 8:30 a.m. through 5 p.m.

Data from both days seemed to indicate little turnover in the majority of the parking lots, meaning people were parking and leaving their cars there for most of the day.

Schrader also said he did not think the trolley system was adequately used. Students said the trolleys were not convenient.

'I would ride the shuttle, but it's just one of those hassles,' said Billy Effinger, a Brenham junior.

Another student said she rides the trolley to avoid trying to find a parking place.

'I ride [the trolley] Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays because I don't have class until 11 [a.m.] and the parking is so bad,' said Staci Meyer, a Kingwood sophomore. 'Everyone says at 10 o'clock it's [the parking lot] already full, so I just ride the trolley and not be late for class.'

Baylor Police Chief Jim Doak said the administration has no goal in the study but to gain another perspective on the situation.

'The idea is for some third party to take a look at it [the parking situation] and give us some observations. To say 'this is what we [the engineering firm] see, good, bad or ugly.' Then we [both parties] can talk about it.'

Students complained about the lack of parking around campus.

'I have to leave 15 minutes early and still end up parking at The Centre or by construction,' said Effinger, who has had nine parking tickets in the past school year. 'I can't find a real spot. I probably pay $100 to $200 a semester for tickets.'

'It's really frustrating because you pretty much have to walk to campus,' said Emily Parker, a Dallas sophomore. You have to drive 15 to 30 minutes to get a space. I usually just walk.'

Schrader noticed students were parking in visitors' parking spaces the past two days by tracking license plates. Effinger said he had parked in spots that were not designated student parking.

'I used to park in visitors parking and honestly that's the best parking I've had,' Effinger said. 'I did that for six months as a freshman.'

Kevin St. Jacques, another member of the engineering team, said the amount of change that will result from the study would largely hinge on the administration's desire to implement the recommendations.

Don Bagby, director of architectural and engineering services, said the administration is somewhat willing to change parking policy, but said he hoped to incorporate the findings with the 'long-range master plan that shows the interior campus will be esplanades and walkways and parking will be moved to the perimeter.'

Students are hopeful that some improvement would be made as a result of the study.

'I think if they [the team] come up with a great idea and present it well, it would go over better than if they [the administration] came up with it by themselves,' Parker said.

The group will compile the data and build a 3-D computer model of supply and demand of parking and come up with some suggestions to improve the parking situation based on the model. St. Jacques said suggestions could range from improving the lighting of several lots to building a parking garage to raising parking permit fees. The preliminary findings will be known at the end of the month and will be presented to the administration in several months.

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