Following a yearlong evaluation of parking and transportation challenges caused by significant growth on the University of Mississippi campus, the Traffic and Parking Committee is implementing the first stages of a three-year plan to improve parking infrastructure for the long term, expand the on-campus shuttle system and add transportation options.
Effective July 1, the first stage of the plan includes simplified online vehicle registration, a faculty and staff reserved-parking option, and expanded hours for on- and off-campus shuttles. The parking committee, which includes student, faculty and staff representatives, surveyed the university community and studied parking policies at SEC and other regional universities. They looked for the best solutions to traffic congestion, more convenient systems for vehicle registration and improved vehicle identification (decals or hangtags).
“Our student, faculty and staff representatives worked very hard to increase convenience, simplify the process and reduce congestion, basing their recommendations on campuswide surveys and the very best ideas from other fast-growing universities,” said Larry Sparks, vice chancellor for administration and finance. “There is never a perfect solution in a complicated task like this one, but they’ve worked very hard to give us the best possible solution.”
Sparks said an important objective was to simplify the process of auto registration. To eliminate lines for parking decal pickup in August – a wait that sometimes took hours – hangtags will be issued through online vehicle registration and mailed to the permanent addresses of all students, faculty and staff. The hangtag system, which registers tags to the individual and not the vehicle (as the decal system did), will allow users to move their hangtag among vehicles. Hangtags will not be available for purchase in the Parking & Transportation Office.
Faculty and staff who are willing to spend more for added convenience ($600 annually) will have access to a limited number of reserved spots, which will be available on a first-come, first-served basis beginning July 1 at olemiss.edu/parking. A reserved space will be designated exclusively for the hangtag holder of that space from 7 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday through Friday.
To increase the convenience of the campus shuttle system, the committee extended the hours of the express Park & Ride buses from 7 a.m.-9 p.m., a decision that Isaac Astill, UM parking director, says will increase the number of riders and further reduce congestion. Astill joined the university in July as part of the newly created Department of Parking & Transportation.
“I see the shuttle system continuing to grow as new buildings are constructed in spaces now used for parking,” Astill said. “In the campus master plan, there are several buildings planned that will create a need for more off-campus parking, adding to the importance of a strong shuttle program. I expect to provide more shuttles in the coming years and to provide more transportation options around campus with the goal of significantly eliminating dependence on automobiles.”
Express buses currently serve two Park & Ride lots and provide pickup and drop-off to interior campus locations (Kennon Observatory, Guyton Hall and Paris-Yates Chapel) every 5-10 minutes.
With Oxford-University Transit, or OUT, ridership continuing to increase citywide (UM students, faculty and staff making up nearly 95 percent of the more than 456,000 total rides in the eight months since August 2012), the Department of Parking & Transportation collaborated with the city of Oxford and OUT board to extend the hours of all city buses to 9 p.m. beginning in the fall.
To raise funds for future parking solutions, hangtag fees will increase over the next three years, though UM faculty/staff, commuter, residential student, Park & Ride and visitor fees will remain the lowest of the major universities in the state. Faculty and staff will have the option of payroll deduction and pre-tax deductions and may purchase a $30 Park & Ride hangtag, a $120 traditional faculty/staff hangtag or a $600 reserved spot (as long as the supply lasts). Students living on campus will purchase a $115 residential student hangtag, while commuters may purchase a $30 Park & Ride hangtag or a $95 traditional commuter hangtag.
For more information, including visitor and event parking and updated campus parking maps, visit olemiss.edu/parking.