In an effort to find solutions for parking struggles around the University of Wyoming, a joint task force between the city and UW could be formed soon, Laramie City Councilor Andi Summerville said.
Summerville proposed the idea for a joint task force during a Dec. 7 listening session hosted by UW to garner public input about a five-year strategic plan for the university.
“The City Council has been talking pretty seriously about parking for the last 18-20 months,” Summerville said. “The idea I proposed to UW to create a joint task force is to get them at the table to be a part of the discussion.”
Councilor Joe Shumway said before creating a plan to fix the problem, the council should hear input from the university, which the plan would affect the most.
“The biggest problem we have is students and staff parking in the residential areas around the university,” Shumway said. “I think (the joint task force) is an important thing we need to do.”
City Council adopted an ordinance in 1994 allowing residents near the UW campus to form permitted parking districts, which limited parking to residents and permit holders.
Residents can create parking districts within three zones — Gibbon Street to Kearney Street between Fifth and Ninth streets, Grand Avenue to Kearney Street between Ninth and 20th streets, and Gibbon Street to Lewis Street between Ninth and 15th streets — with the vote of a majority of the stakeholders on a block space, said Laramie Executive Assistant Paula Wilson-Cazier, who administers the parking program.
About 130 districts have been created since the creation of the ordinance, Wilson-Cazier said. Not enough parking spaces is the biggest complaint she said she receives.
“The system is not working as well as we hoped,” Summerville said. “Right now we have a very complicated map about where parking districts are and where they aren’t.”
Once a resident has a parking permit for a district with her zone, she can park in any district inside the zone.
Shumway said some permit holders living on the fringe of the zone are driving three blocks closer to UW and parking in front permitted residences to make their commute shorter.
“Since I’ve been on council, we have lost residential parking spots,” he said. “During the school year, many times (residents) have to park blocks and blocks away just to bring in the groceries.”
Another problem he said he heard about was students waiting until the last minute and parking in permit-only zone.
“It’s a needless $50 out of their pockets when they get ticketed,” he said. “I think the university has enough space to solve the problems if they opened up parking around (War Memorial Stadium) during the week. But I don’t want to tell the university what they should do until they talk to us.”
Summerville said the transit system UW set up helped relieve some of the parking problems, and she hoped by creating the joint task force, more solutions could be created by a partnership between the city and UW.
“I think it’s certainly an idea worth exploring,” said Chris Boswell, UW vice president of Governmental and Community Affairs. “I think Councilor Summerville’s proposal is an interesting one.”
While Summerville said she hoped to form the joint task force as early as the 2017 spring semester, Boswell said he wasn’t sure how early it could be formed.
“I think going forward, we need to decide what the task force is going to try to accomplish,” Boswell said.
Another consideration in the formation of the joint task force was the addition of two new members to the City Council in January, he said.
“Historically, it’s been a very divisive issue for the council,” he said. “I don’t think there’s unanimity anywhere. It will definitely be a thorny issue going forward.”
Whatever direction the council or the university decided to move toward, Boswell said they would benefit from good communication.
“(City Council) is certainly fractured and divided on the subject,” Summerville said. “But I hope that by bringing UW into the discussion we can come up with some solutions in the near future.”