February 14, 2016

Parking at the University at Albany during peak hours is chaos. Students circle Colonial Quad lot stalking their peers to claim a space, and snake up and down the aisles of Dutch Quad lot in the hopes of making the long walk up to the podium from their car just a little shorter.


But that’s the issue, according to Jason Jones, director of Parking and Mass Transit Services (PMTS), it’s just a little shorter. At a school where one of the core values is sustainability, Jones wants to dissuade the campus conception that there is not enough parking and that students have to walk too far.


“There is more than enough parking,” Jones said, but, “it’s not on the 50 yard line.”


At UAlbany, there are 7,500 parking spaces and 11,000 registered vehicles. Allowing for the fact that not every student is on campus at the same time, Jones is confident that there is sufficient space.  Still, there are a few issues that do threaten that space.


On Jan. 14, 2016, PMTS issued an email announcing that the Northwest Gold student lot no longer allowed overnight parking. That is the lot right across form Colonial Quad, where the overflow park when Colonial is full. In an already hectic area, students wondered why this change, further limiting parking, was in effect.


Jones reiterated the email that said the change was implemented to aid in snow removal. Last year, the University declared two snow emergencies. Jones said students were notified and asked to move their vehicles. However, many, especially in Colonial lot, did not comply.


According to Jones, 17 cars had to be towed. Jones said rather than making students go through the hassle of retrieving their cars from a garage and paying all the fees on top of the towing, being able to take them to a lot on campus is a preferable method.


According to Jones, as a preventative measure, the Northwest lot was closed to overnight parking, and therefore, open to opportunity. He said last year, “Colonial lot was unsafe,” due to the cars blocking plowing. If another snow emergency is declared, PMTS can also now direct vehicles to the Northwest lot for effective snow removal of Colonial lot.


While this preventative measure may come in handy when the weather acts up, the issue of parking lot lurking for the closest spot remains a reality.


To combat that, Jones encourages students to make use of the buses. Shuttles travel around the UAlbany campus and transportation on the CDTA is just one unlimited swipe of a student’s SUNY card away.


Jones works closely with the Environmental Sustainability groups on campus and hopes more students will choose to take the bus and continue to lessen the University’s carbon footprint. According to Jones, the CDTA gives over 1 million rides to university students each year, and he hopes that number will continue to rise.


He plans to introduce an express route called a BRT, bus rapid transit, which is a non-stop route from Alumni quad, a downtown residence hall, up to campus. This will eliminate the extra travel time students face on a regular CDTA bus that makes frequent stops.


And although Jones maintains the hope that students would park farther from the podium, where many spots are open, and walk the difference, he understands that students might not be satisfied with that response.


For this reason, he disclosed a long-term plan he has that has been effective at other schools in speeding up the parking process. The idea is to implement sensors at the entrance and exit of the lots that will be able to tell how many cars are there. This information is fed to a screen at the main entrances to the campus, informing drivers of which lots are full and which are not.


Though that is a long-term plan, Jones is working daily to improve the experience of the on-campus commute. He answers all of the complaints that come into his email, and he writes back when students make a comment on Twitter or Facebook.


Parking and Mass Transit Services is an “easy punching bag,” Jones said, but he wants to “change the perception of it.”


Reach Jones at jjones6@albany.edu