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Parking changes take effect
Officials urge faculty, staff to look to future campus environment

The long-planned effort to create a more pedestrian-friendly center to the Storrs campus is about to begin. But while the idea of a campus core receives high marks from many students, faculty and staff, Mark Emmert, chancellor and provost for university affairs, is quick to acknowledge that the process necessary to create the campus core is certain to present some challenges in the short run.

"In the weeks ahead, we all will face some disruptions in our comfort level, in the way we have become accustomed to going about our business on the Storrs campus," says Emmert.

The most notable immediate change involves a reduction in available parking in the academic core. Effective September 2, only cars bearing the distinctive "Employee R" (for restricted parking permit) will be allowed to park in the center of campus.

In addition to the spaces on Fairfield Road and in a handful of small lots close to the center of campus, a temporary parking lot on Dow Field adjacent to the graduate dorms has enabled the University to accommodate all 540 people who applied for parking in the campus core.

Although people will still be allowed to drive on Fairfield Road, parking in the core campus will be available only for those who have paid $150 per semester for the privilege.

All other faculty and staff will receive new "Employee" permits, which allow parking in any unrestricted lot on campus. There will no longer be a distinction between permits for faculty and those for staff.

"By limiting parking in the academic core to a relatively small number of vehicles, the hunting will diminish," says William Barrett, director of parking and transportation services, referring to the ritual of drivers repeatedly circling the Fairfield Road parking area, waiting for a space to open. With more than 3,400 faculty and staff previously eligible to park there, and thousands of students crossing the street hourly, the problems, he says, were evident. Traffic counts have placed the number of vehicles traversing the busy street at more than 4,000 daily.

Barrett says officials are hopeful that gentle reminders from uniformed staff assigned to the restricted parking areas will be enough to dissuade people from parking illegally. "Starting September 2, we will be friendly but firm," Barrett says. But, he adds, if that isn't enough, staff will be on hand to issue parking tickets.The price of tickets for parking in unauthorized areas has increased to $25.

"People are paying for the right to park there. They expect to be able to find a spot," Barrett says. The restrictions apply to everybody who hasn't paid, including vendors, visitors, and faculty and staff from any campus.

"Everyone else will be directed to the free employee lots and student and visitor lots," he says, adding that faculty, staff and visitors should make every effort to use the lots designated for them, since students pay a fee for the right to park in student lots.

Chief of Police Robert S. Hudd says police officers will be assigned to patrol reserved parking areas. "These officers will work through the changes with faculty, staff, students, and visitors, not only in issuing tickets but in guiding people to alternative parking," he says.

Barrett notes that the total number of parking spaces available on campus is more than sufficient to accommodate the needs of students, faculty and staff, visitors and vendors. Rather, he says, the hardest part for many will be adjusting to having to park on the periphery of campus, which is where parking must be located in order to enhance the center of campus.

To assist the campus with the transition, the University has purchased six new shuttle buses, bringing the total number of buses in the University's fleet to 23. A revamped route schedule that should keep a regular flow of buses, spaced no more than 12 minutes apart, circulating throughout campus and providing daytime service to the center of campus, will also help, Barrett says.

Additionally, he says, two new or expanded parking lots - one adjacent to the ice rink and one on King's Hill Road - will add nearly 400 spaces to the campus total. Each of the lots will have shuttle service and a sheltered waiting area.

The change in parking tradition may be jarring to some, Barrett points out, especially those who have been away for the past several months when a number of major UConn 2000 projects got under way, resulting in a further loss of parking spaces.

But, Barrett says, the renovation of the Hugh Greer Field House is finished, restoring at least 90 spaces to the inventory. And, by repainting the lines and shrinking the size of spaces, there are another 22 spots available on North Eagleville Road. The parking garage, currently under construction on the site of the former lot 9, will provide hundreds of new parking spaces when it opens early next year.

The Chancellor has sent a letter to all faculty and staff, including those at the regional campuses, detailing the need for the changes and seeking employees' cooperation. Along with the letter is a color-coded map, indicating where to find free parking, and a shuttle bus schedule. The map and the schedule, which people are urged to keep handy, will also be available at sites including the UConn Co-op, the Student Union information desk, the Homer Babbidge Library information desk, various labor union offices or from Parking Services.The shuttle routes and schedules will also be posted on each of the shuttle buses and on kiosks being installed at many of the shuttle stops.

"It's going to be a spectacular campus when the work is done. One that we'll all be very proud of," says Barrett. "I know change is hard, but in the long run we all will benefit as the University moves forward."

Richard Veilleux