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UF Campus To Lose 600 Parking Spaces As Construction Begins On New Parking Garage

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Parking on the University of Florida campus is about to get much tighter.

Approximately 600 parking spaces will be demolished this November as construction for a new parking garage is slated to begin on the northern section of the Commuter Lot on Gale Lemerand Drive, leaving an urgent need for temporary parking lots.

The new garage will have about 1,900 total parking spaces when completed, however, the long term net gain will be minimal due to other planned construction projects, said Scott Fox, Transportation and Parking Services director.

The Commuter Lot garage won’t be completed until February 2020. In the meantime, TAPS is exploring some temporary parking options to make up for the loss of spaces to be discussed during the next Parking and Transportation Committee meeting in the coming weeks.

“I can’t give you a timeline yet on any of them, but I can tell you that when the northern portion of the Commuter Lot closes in November of 2018, I better have alternative places for people to park,” he said.

James Humphrey, a UF junior who has been parking in the Commuter Lot this summer semester, said underclassmen will suffer the most with the closing of the Commuter Lot, as it is one of the few lots in the center of campus where their decals allow them to park.

“I’m not sure how that’ll work. They may have to reroute some bus routes or something just to get people to and from,” Humphrey said. “I can’t imagine where on campus they’d even put more temporary parking, so I feel like it’d have to be even farther from the center of campus.”

Erin Patrick, an assistant research professor for UF’s department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, will lose her usual parking spot across from the Reitz Union in spring 2019 when the Engineering Lot is scheduled for demolition to make room for the new Data Science and Information Technology Center. She said that it’s already hard enough to find parking close to the center of campus, and if UF is going to take away so many staff parking spots, they need to find a way to replace them soon.

“It was a bag of mixed blessings,” Patrick said. “I’m excited about the new infrastructure, but worried about getting to class on time to teach.”

The projected budget for the garage is $32.4 million — about $17,900 per space. 

Fox said that the new garage is needed due to campus projects and new buildings that have taken the place of parking spaces. The Commuter Lot garage is TAPS’s way of replacing what has been lost, as well as what will be lost in the near future.

The following list illustrates the projected parking loss based on projects that are already planned, according to Fox. While not all the projects have start dates, the first three have either already begun or are expected to begin within the next year.

  • Pony Field Lot – 101 spaces — June 2018
  • Gale Lemerand Drive Commuter Lot North – 600 — November 2018
  • Engineering Lot (across from Reitz Union) – 351 — May 2019
  • Gale Lemerand Drive Commuter Lot South – 472 — TBD
  • Inner Road – 128 — TBD
  • Frazier Rogers Lot – 162 — TBD

All six projects collectively leave a projected loss of about 1,800 on-campus spaces, including the 600 spaces from the Commuter Lot North. Fox said the new garage will cancel out those losses with 1,900 spaces, but not until it is completion in 2020.

A map of all the UF parking lots currently slated for demolition. (Matthew Arrojas/WUFT News)

“If there’s anything we want to convey to the university community, it is that this is coming and we know it and we’re preparing for it,” he said. “Your experience during the construction process and once the garage opens is important to us. That’s why we’re trying to make good decisions now.”

Temporary Parking Lots

Fox said that TAPS currently has five temporary parking plans,  pending approval. The plans range from small parking lots of just 100 spaces to much larger ones with over 500.

The largest proposed lot would provide 532 spaces at Fifield Field and would cost TAPS about $1.5 million dollars. The smallest lot would be on the east side of 13th street and provide 105 spaces costing $250,000, according to Fox’s presentation.

The following five proposed lots would provide 1,233 temporary parking spaces:

  • 13th Street East – 105 spaces – $250,000
  • Norman Field – 196 – $525,000
  • Archer Road Field – 277 – $1.2 million
  • Fifield Field – 532 – $1.5 million
  • Flavet Field – 123 – $375,000
(Scott Fox’s PowerPoint presentation)

Fox stressed that none of these plans have been approved yet, and some may not go into effect at all. Others, like the Fifield Field lot, may be built but with fewer spaces than what is currently being proposed.

All together, the lots would cost about $3.9 million to build. Fox is hopeful a plan for the temporary lots will be solidified before the start of the fall semester.

City, UF Agreement Limits Total Parking Spaces On Campus

While the Commuter Lot garage will make up for the spaces lost in 2020, it will do little to raise the amount of parking available on campus overall. Fox said that is because of the Campus Development Agreement UF made with the city of Gainesville.

The agreement caps the max amount of parking spots that UF can have at 25,377. Fox said that the agreement was put in place because the roads surrounding UF, like Archer Road and University Avenue, are not equipped to handle the traffic that more parking spots would create.

“If we built 5,000 more parking spaces and generated 5,000 more trips, single-occupant vehicle trips, in the morning and 5,000 more trips in the evening, those roads that are already failing would absolutely choke,” he said.

Because of the agreement, supply of parking spaces has remained stagnant for the past 20 years. According Fox’s presentation, the parking inventory in 1998 was the same as it is for 2018 at a range of 23,000 to 24,000 spaces.

Meanwhile, demand for parking continues to reach all-time peaks, Fox said.

(Scott Fox’s PowerPoint presentation)

For the 2016-17 school year, 36,440 automobile decals were issued. That’s about 13,000 more decals issued than there are actual parking spots on campus. 

The current Campus Development Agreement is in effect until 2025 but will be revisited in 2020. Fox said that it is possible that the increasing demand will cause the cap to rise, but it is still far too early to make any predictions.

“Obviously,” he said, “when the parking supply remains basically flat and the demand continues to go up and we’re issuing more and more parking decals, it’s getting harder and harder to have a satisfying parking experience.”

About Matthew Arrojas

Matthew is a reporter for WUFT News who can be reached by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.

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