By Bob Browand
Now that Parking and Transportation Services has started communicating the changes coming in the next academic year, the one thing that seems to have caught the eye of many is the transition away from faculty-staff ungated permits to the "Zones For All" approach.
It is important to mention upfront that we do not make changes on a whim. Everything goes through an in-depth process that entails deep discussions with stakeholders such as our shared governance Transportation and Parking Advisory Committee, Student Government Association leadership, Staff Council and Faculty Senate.
Once the changes have been heard within these groups, they are then presented to senior executive leadership.
The zone changes went through this entire process before being presented to the UH community.
2021-2022 Zones for All Map
(Click map to view larger version)
Difficulty Finding a Space
Before we go into why the Zones for All concept is an enhancement to the campus parking program, let’s review the current faculty-staff ungated permits.
Prior to the pandemic, the campus was bustling with students and vehicles everywhere. Many faculty-staff had a difficult time trying to find a parking space in an ungated faculty-staff lot after 8 a.m. or when returning to campus after leaving to run an errand or eat lunch.
The faculty-staff ungated permits are -- by design and intention -- a “hunting license” to search for an available parking space within a group of lots. Those who had a faculty and staff parking permit came to work each day in hopes of a finding a space in a lot near their workplace and dreaded having to park “all the way across campus” if they could not.
They would typically come to work early and were prepared to drive around campus until they found a space they liked within a faculty-staff ungated lot. Those that didn’t have time to circle often would choose to park illegally in a student zone and more times than not, would receive a parking citation. This made faculty and staff upset and there were many complaints.
By transitioning faculty and staff to the zones concept, it will eliminate the need to “hunt and search” for a space on daily basis. Faculty and staff will have a parking space within their assigned zone each and every day.
If you arrive at 9 a.m., you will be able to find a space in your assigned zone. This will also be the case when you return to campus after leaving for lunch.
This is possible because a cap is placed on the number of permits sold to students and faculty-staff for each of the zones. By limiting the number of people who can park in a zone, it eliminates the zones from becoming 100% filled.
An additional benefit is it will allow for a wider, better selection for spaces for faculty and staff. Instead of a limited small space that fills up quickly, you will have an opportunity to park in a larger area with the trust that you will have a space in that area on a daily basis.
Blending and consolidating space allows Parking and Transportation to create more available space without having to build more space in future garages. The less space we have to build, the less amount of debt service we incur for new garages.
As a reminder, we are only in restricted parking from 7 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday through Thursday. After 3 p.m. and anytime on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, you can move freely around campus and park in any ungated, non-restricted space. (Restricted spaces such as meters, disabled, reserved, loading and fire zones are not included.)
Here are a few things we are hearing so far regarding the change to Zones for All that we would like to address:
“We will now be competing with students for space.”
This is not true. Everyone assigned to a zone will have available spaces within that zone. Selling of the zone permits will take into effect the amount of previous faculty and staff ungated spaces that were in that area and the ratios will not be reduced from that but could possibly be increased where applicable.
You may not be able to park exactly where you want to park, but you will have a space within that zone at all times. Additionally, there will be certain areas in zones that parking between the hours of 3 a.m.-5 a.m. will be strictly prohibited and strictly enforced.
“It was hard enough to find a space when we had our own areas, now we will never find a space.”
This also is not true. As mentioned previously, if you are assigned a zone, you will have available space in that zone every day.
“I will not be able to move around campus now.”
As discussed above, our data shows that the majority of “prime” faculty and staff ungated spaces were completely full during peak hours and therefore difficult, if not impossible, to move from one location to another. It is true that like gated and garage parkers, you will need to park in your assigned area between the hours of 7 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday through Thursday. The University has campus shuttle circulators that serve all zones. In addition, departments can purchase departmental runner permits for business needs, and validations can be purchased for visitor parking.
“You are basically forcing staff to buy garage or gated parking lot permits.”
Zones for All will be an enhancement for the majority of faculty and staff. It is an improvement over the ungated faculty-staff "hunting license" permit.
We are not forcing anyone to buy garage or gated lot parking. However, if someone chooses to purchase gated or garage parking, we did lower the garage rates from $905 (the rate for the past two years) to $845 for the upcoming year. We are also offering a discounted rate for select gated lots that are $100 cheaper than the other gated lots.