ASUCI leaders met with UCI Transportation and Distribution Services (TDS) executives last Monday, March 20 to address mounting student concerns of parking availability and affordability on campus. ASUCI President Tracy La, along with Internal Vice President Rafael Carrazco, left the meeting with an agenda of eight “action items” intended to increase transparency between TDS and students.
Four administrative representatives from TDS, including Director Ron Fleming, were present at the meeting, which was intended for ASUCI and TDS to “work together to help alleviate the financial burden that parking and parking citations have on students,” according to La.
TDS is an independent entity at UCI, and funds parking structures and transportation services without state funds or student fees. As a self-funded department, TDS must levy fees on students through citations and permit prices to maintain services and pay off debts on four of UCI’s parking structures. According to the TDS website, more than 60 percent of revenue, $11.8 million, comes from long-term permit sales, and $1.6 million comes from citation enforcement. TDS is also working to “reduce vehicles on campus,” according to the site, so “new lots and structures do not need to be built.”
As a result of this commitment to stop building parking lots, one issue discussed during the meeting was the current dearth of parking spaces on campus, which has led to students’ inability to find parking spaces within their zones. According to TDS, UCI has lost about 12,000 parking stalls in the past decade, during which the campus has grown by over 15 percent. The campus is expected to lose another 2,000 stalls “due to continued campus expansion projects happening in the next couple of years,” according to Fleming, including a potential Student Health and Wellness Building planned to be built over Parking Lot 2.
To alleviate this issue, Fleming said that TDS plans to build a 1,000 stall lot in Research Park with a shuttle to bring students to and from the main campus, as well as a 2,200 stall lot in the Physical Sciences area by 2021.
However, according to La, TDS still faces obstacles in keeping up with UCI students’ demand for affordable parking, due to a growing student population and pressure from the state to become more sustainable.
“The overall UCI population is increasing by hundreds of people every year, with an estimated 7,000 student increase by 2021,” La said. “In addition, California is increasingly pushing more sustainable options for transportation — one of the reasons why it was so important for us to have an all-electric bus fleet — such as public transportation, ride-sharing programs and bikes, so the state legislature and UC Office of the President are less willing to help provide funding for parking structures and lots.”
Fleming echoed this sentiment, noting, “According to the California Master Plan, parking structures will never be state-funded. There is also an increasing focus on sustainable options for transportation on college campuses so schools can use the land for more instructional space.” In support of sustainable options, TDS is building 3,000 new bicycle stalls on campus, as well as six bicycle parking hubs. Fleming also expressed interest in increasing the number of ride-sharing Zip Cars on campus and lowering their hourly rates.
While encouraging sustainability, Fleming also addressed plans to keep parking permit costs down for students currently parking on campus. He noted that the new parking lot will be funded by increasing faculty and staff parking rates by $2, but keeping costs the same for students. Additionally, a portion will be funded by TDS reserved funds.
La’s proposed solutions include “better security in regards to car accidents, repurposing potentially unused lots, more ride-sharing and carpool programs,” but she encourages UCI students to contact her with any plans or concerns that ASUCI has not yet addressed. She added that ASUCI leaders plan to meet with UCI Transportation again and release another report.