With 13 parking structures containing thousands of parking spaces to accommodate students, faculty and staff, the University of Florida has been retrofitting to more energy efficient lighting to reinforce safety.
The UF Transportation and Parking Services department has retrofitted lights to 11 parking garages in the past five years. It is currently working on the 12th at Newell Garage (Garage 4), located at Newell Drive and Museum Road. LED lights will be installed in the location by the end of this year.
Instead of the worn workhouse lighting, transportation and parking services replaced the dim yellow lights in 11 garages with either LEDs, fluorescent or induction lights.
“[The new lights] has increased the comfort level of folks a lot,” said Ronald Fuller, assistant director of UF Transportation and Parking Services.
“We received a number of comments about how much safer people feel because they can see further into the garage, and it’s just a brighter whiter light,” he said.
According to Fuller, the university has upgraded the lighting incrementally to make everyone feel a little safer when entering a parking structure or walking to his or her vehicle late at night.
Costs for the new lighting systems depend on the size of each garage, which determines the number of lights needed. The cost thus far for the completed garages have ranged from $40,000 to $296,000.
Some, however, believe the lights will be more of a boon to convenience than to safety.
“I think a newer lighting system will actually be irrelevant because let’s say in a situation where someone is planning to attack you, brighter lights won’t actually catch the person after it happens,” says Ashley Aristide, a 20-year-old business management student at UF.
“[But] brighter lights will be great when you’re trying to find a parking spot,” she added.
Aristide studies late in the libraries on campus, sometimes leaving around 12 a.m. or 1 a.m. and feels that surveillance cameras in the parking garages will be a little more effective.
Officer Chad Holway of the University of Florida Police Department said that each of the garages will be checked periodically.
“Through the night there’s 13 police officers that are on duty 24-hours a day on patrol, and they go through those garages,” Holway said.
He also said that a lighting survey conducted by the police department showed no significant difference in the likelihood of a crime to occur in a dimly lit parking garage versus one that is brightly lit.
“We encourage our students to be aware of their surroundings — see something, say something,” said Holway.
Students, faculty and staff are encouraged to use the resources — emergency blue light system, SNAP, police escorts, and prevention courses — offered by the university to make them feel safer.
“There are 50,000 students and 90 of us, plus all of the staff. If students see something they need to call or text us,” said Officer Wayne Clark, public information officer at the university police department.
“[Students] are everywhere all of the time — in every building, in every classroom, in every parking garage — so if somebody sees something they need to let us know what’s going on,” he said.
With the 12th garage being prepared for lighting changes, there is only one garage left to improve — the UF Health Shands Hospital parking garage. The date when the Shands garage will undergo the lighting changes is still to be determined.