As the first days of school came, so did the realization for the 8,700 UC Irvine students who drive to school that the parking was a little different this year. Particularly in the Zone 3 parking section of campus near biological sciences, students found that the lots that they were assigned to were filled, forcing them to park off-campus and take the UCI Shuttle to their class.
“People are paying a lot for parking for a lot less,” said James Lee, the creator of a Facebook group calling students to action in order to change the way UCI Parking is run.
With over 4,000 members, the group requests that students write letters to Ron Fleming, the director of UCI Parking, to demand that Parking remove the zoning policy that was implemented this year.
What zoning does is assign students to a parking lot that their pass is valid for. If they park in any other parking lot, they are ticketed. The problem with this is many students have classes on the opposite side of campus from their parking permit and while last year they could park right next to their class, they must walk this year.
In addition to the inconvenience of walking across campus to class, if students do get to their assigned parking lot in time to get a spot they feel they need to stay on-campus until they are completely finished with classes for the day for fear that they will lose their parking.
These students who are getting to school earlier and waiting on-campus longer is creating a slower turn-over rate and students with classes later in the day have nearly no chance of getting parking in certain areas like Zone 3.
Some students are angered by the seemingly finished parking structure near the Anteater Recreation Center which is not open to park in.
However, according to Ron Fleming, that structure is not even owned by UCI Parking and is strictly intended for use by the residents of the new student housing that is currently under construction.
“The first three weeks of school are always the busiest,” Fleming said. “There is a learning curve for the incoming students.”
While the zoning is frustrating for students, according to parking, there is very specific reasoning for it.
“We actually do zoning due to mandates for Greenhouse gas emissions,” Fleming said, “We have one mandate that says that by the year 2012 we cannot have more emissions than we did in 2000. But [by] 2020, we cannot have more emissions than we did in 1999.”
According to Mike Davis, the Employee Transportation Coordinator for UCI, zoning will prevent students from driving from class to class or going home between classes to lower emissions. Although the students pay money for permits, the system will ultimately save them gas money by remaining on campus and not driving between classes.
“So far there have been 300 tickets written this year,” Fleming said, “but 80 percent of them were written because students did not have permits at all. For students who parked in the wrong zone, our overflow lots have around 30 percent occupancy, if they cannot find a spot in their assigned lot, they can always go to the overflow lots and take the shuttle to campus.”
In addition to that, Davis added that the Orange County Transit Authority (OCTA) buses were finally back on campus for the first time in years, making it easier for students who live off-campus to get to school without a car.
UCI Transportation is also trying to get the OCTA buses to go from campus to other popular locations like Spectrum, the Block and the District, shopping centers where students will be able to go between or after classes to have fun with friends without needing a car.
“This is a culture change,” Davis said. “We want to save money and so we are pushing towards biking and walking. The majority of people who are being ticketed for parking do not have permits and are breaking the rules.”
Jennifer Cartnal, the communications specialist for UCI Parking added that the goal was not to ticket students and aggressive ticketing was only intended to help students with a pass.
“We had people getting tickets for parking without a permit,” Cartnal said, “and they were still making out better than students who had purchased a parking pass. Even though they were getting ticketed occasionally, they were paying less than if they had bought a pass. We don’t want to reward people for breaking the rules and we want our students who paid for a pass to have space to park.”
If a student thinks that a ticket was wrongfully given, there is a multi-level process to get it removed. They can go to a second-level hearing and get it revoked. If this does not work, they can even take it to court.
“I have read a lot about transportation,” Lee said, “and UCI Parking has failed to do a good job this year. They do not ask students about what they want and they do not realize that people have had issues.”
UCI Parking said that although they try to communicate with students, they find it extremely difficult.
“Parking is not sexy,” Cartnal said, “Students do not want to attend a conference about the changes in parking and transportation. We’ve tried, but no one comes.”