The University of Wyoming’s Transit and Parking Services hosted a community meeting Thursday at the Berry Center Auditorium to get public input regarding parking in and around campus. Although it was sparsely attended, there were big concerns for parking availability in the neighborhoods around campus, the accessibility of campus from the current parking lots and properly utilizing the resources university already has.
Paul Kunkel, manager of UW’s Transit and Parking Services, said the meeting was part of an effort by the university to start a long-term development plan for parking and transit. He added UW has been working with consultants in addition to holding over ten stakeholder meetings on campus to start studying how to improve parking.
David Lieb, parking consultant at Walker Consultants, a national consulting firm specializing in parking and transportation, said stakeholders have taken several steps so far in the process, but he really wanted to focus on feedback in addition to any raw data.
“This is a great conversation to have early in the project, so we can hear about what kinds of impacts the campus has on the community, how the parking and transportation system is seen and how we think it can be better.” said Lieb. “We’re collecting a lot of numbers, but it’s talking to people on campus and in the community that really puts faces, stories, names, experiences and anecdotes that really flesh out the picture for us and give us a more three-dimensional view of campus and its parking and transportation system.”
So far, Lieb said his group has talked to “several groups on campus” as well as “taken inventory of every parking lot and space on campus.”
He added they plan to do a commuter student survey to see if students are willing to change their transportation habits.
Resident Korey Kreitman said he was frustrated the university didn’t seem to plan for parking availability when designing and building new buildings, but any new commercial buildings in the city are required by law to include parking options.
“I did a little research on the city ordinance,” Kreitman, an employee at the university, said. “If I was going to build a commercial building, according to city code I’m required to have parking for my patrons and employees. The university has built multiple buildings and has actually taken away parking. … So, I guess it just seems like the university plays by a different rule than the city and anyone else that has to build a commercial property in the city. I see that being a problem.”
Lieb said before looking at adding structures like parking garages, which can be very costly, he wanted to make sure the university is using what it has more efficiently. Many in the public also voiced their concern that the university was underutilizing its athletic lots, including those around War Memorial Stadium, especially when there isn’t a game scheduled.
When members of the public brought up issues with residential parking permits, Lieb said the university was in support of the permits and would discourage its students from not following them. However, he added university students, faculty and staff are considered part of the public, so any public parking near the university is fair game. Many of the people at the meeting disagreed and said the students didn’t respect the permits at all.
“We have permit parking in front of our house, but that means nothing to the students,” Kreitman said. “We call them in [to the police] all the time. This week, probably 10 tickets were written in front of our house — and we buy permits for our vehicles.”
Pete Gardiner, a resident in the area for decades, also mentioned what he considered a lack of respect among students, and added many of them block his driveway for long periods of time. He said he was particularly frustrated the public is not more involved with university expansion or projects such as parking.
“You said you met 11 times with stakeholders at the campus,” Gardiner said. “Property holders are stakeholders too, and property owners count, and property holders are not going to give up our rights.”
When asked for suggestions for an ideal parking future, some residents like Gardiner wanted fewer students with cars at all. He said he was frustrated parking has been such an ongoing issue.
“I have owned property and had my home on Lewis Street across from the College of Education for 40 years,” Gardiner said. “Parking has been a continuing nuisance. The executives at UW come and go so fast, they don’t even know what’s been done in the past. To my recollection, there’s been a whole handful of parking studies. … When I went to college out East, undergraduates were not permitted to have vehicles on campus; it was a violation. … There were no parking problems.”
Betty Wortman said parking is an issue many in her neighborhood near campus are passionate about, but the meeting’s location on campus made it difficult for a lot of residents to attend due to lack of parking and potential long walks.
“For the future, are you considering parking for elderly people closer in?” Wortman asked. “I know a lot of people are elderly that live in these neighborhoods, and it might’ve been really inconvenient for them to get here tonight. That’s why you may not have a big turnout of people. … So, are you going to have another community input meeting with the public someplace where people can get to a little bit easier? … You might get a little more input from the elderly. It’s hard for elderly people to come to campus lots of times because there really isn’t convenient parking.”
Lieb said many universities across the country are working to accommodate more accessible parking for those who need it.
The feedback wasn’t all negative. Klaus Hanson, a member of the Laramie City Council, said he was pleased with the bus transit system bringing students to and from campus, especially since many in the public use it, too. He said he hoped the university could expand the service to cover more neighborhoods to encourage fewer commuters.
“What I think is going really well is that the university has developed a rather robust bus system to get people to campus from outlying lots,” Hanson said. “I think that’s a very nice thing, and citizens use it as well. It’s free and I think that’s a very good way to get to campus if you have trouble finding a parking space.”