Paw'd Defiance

Finding a Spot: Parking at UW Tacoma

December 18, 2019 Associate Director of Maintenance & Operations Tessa Coleman, Program Operations Manager James Sinding and ASUWT President Vincent Da. Season 2 Episode 6
Paw'd Defiance
Finding a Spot: Parking at UW Tacoma
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Paw'd Defiance
Finding a Spot: Parking at UW Tacoma
Dec 18, 2019 Season 2 Episode 6
Associate Director of Maintenance & Operations Tessa Coleman, Program Operations Manager James Sinding and ASUWT President Vincent Da.

In this episode we talk about parking in and around UW Tacoma with Associate Director of Maintenance & Operations Tessa Coleman, Program Operations Manager James Sinding and ASUWT President Vincent Da. UW Tacoma's urban setting presents different challenges and limitations when it comes to parking. We'll talk about those. We'll also discuss a new parking lot that is scheduled to open in the spring along with other possible solutions that could help open up spots on campus. Finally, we'll chat about a new transportation survey that students, faculty and staff are encouraged to complete. 

Show Notes Transcript

In this episode we talk about parking in and around UW Tacoma with Associate Director of Maintenance & Operations Tessa Coleman, Program Operations Manager James Sinding and ASUWT President Vincent Da. UW Tacoma's urban setting presents different challenges and limitations when it comes to parking. We'll talk about those. We'll also discuss a new parking lot that is scheduled to open in the spring along with other possible solutions that could help open up spots on campus. Finally, we'll chat about a new transportation survey that students, faculty and staff are encouraged to complete. 

Tessa Coleman:

With parking, you always feel like somebody knows something and it's always word of mouth that gets things across to others. But the idea is with this, if it's the feedback to the students going to ASUWT, why not partner with them and make that the conduit of communication. And together we actually created a survey

Speaker 2:

[inaudible]

Sarah Smith:

From UW Tacoma. This is Paw'd Defiance.

Sarah Smith:

Welcome to Paw'd Defiance where we don't lecture, but we do educate. I'm your host, Sarah Smith, and today on the pod parking, UW Tacoma's urban campus presents some challenges when it comes to finding a place to park. We'll talk about these issues and how the university plans to address the issues with UW Tacoma's associate director of maintenance and operations, Tessa Coleman program operations manager, James Sinding and ASUWT president Vincent Da.

Sarah Smith:

Well, welcome everybody. Thank you. Thanks for joining us. So if you wouldn't mind, let's go around and everybody introduce yourself and what your affiliation with the university is. And Tessa, we'll start with you.

Tessa Coleman:

Thank you. Tessa Coleman. Facility services. I'm under the maintenance and operation side.

Vincent Da:

And then my name is Vincent DA, I'm the ASUWT student body president. Parking has been an issue for students for ongoing years. And so each student government team tries to tackle it differently. And so that's how we partner with other people on campus to make an impact.

James Sinding:

And I'm James Sinding transportation services manager now falling under facility services. Also, I act as the commute trip production representative as well as the employee transportation coordinator.

Sarah Smith:

Cool.

Sarah Smith:

Well, I'm going to start off with a question that I'm just curious for my own benefit. How do each of you get to the campus every day?

Tessa Coleman:

I do drive, I try to carpool one day a week at least. Now I, used to carpool every day, but unfortunately they changed my hours a little bit. So that's the challenge. But I'm trying to merge it back. So I, do drive and park at a UWT lot.

Vincent Da:

And then from my experience, I actually live at the dorms at Court 17. So I actually use more of the U PASS to get around. So when I need to go grocery shopping, I'll just hop on the bus, use a U PASS, or when I do have to go to meetings up in Seattle, I like using the, U PASS a lot just to get me up there.

Sarah Smith:

So,no car?

Vincent Da:

No car.

James Sinding:

I do a little bit of all. For the winter, I have to admit, I do drive a lot to campus, but in the summer, in spring, I try riding my bike and sometimes I try taking the bus if the times are right.

Sarah Smith:

I admittedly drive most days because I have a family and a crazy schedule and parking's more convenient. I live right near the bus route, but there just aren't a ton of buses running by. I can't use my time effectively if I'm riding the bus, but when I can and I've got the time and the weather's nice, I'll, I'll take the bus.

Sarah Smith:

Can you talk about some of the challenges and limitations of parking campus? It's 40 acres of campus within the City of Tacoma and the city obviously wants parking turnover. Can we talk to that a little bit?

Tessa Coleman:

I mean there's, there's quite a bit with limitations. I mean, especially when it comes to what the City requires to build out lots alone. That type of investment is quite substantial and it's not the best practices for an environmental impact and especially already to, you know, well-developed area in that mindset. So, making sure that you're a good community investor and that you're participating in it. Well, minimizing that impact is also important, especially with growth and development. So, it's a delicate balance with the, the 46 acres and trying to maximize your resources. So it has quite a few different constraints applied to it.

James Sinding:

Yeah, I think we have to be good stewards, fiscally, and as far as land use goes because parking's much more expensive than most people think. For an average surface lot, which is just asphalt on top dirt. And that's anywhere from $8,000 to $10,000 per stall. If you want to go into a structured parking that's going from anywhere from $35,000 to $45,000 per stall. So, fiscally that's not sustainable. Right. And the way transportation is going, we're going to see less people driving to campus.

James Sinding:

Even though the campus is expanding, it's less people driving. As far as land use goes. The campus is expanding and the first thing they're going to take out is surface lot parking because academic use far exceeds, as far as value goes, parking. That and actually making sure everyone's aware of all the options they actually have. In talking to students, some of them and faculty and staff, some of them don't know all the options they currently have, but we actually worked with the city of Tacoma on offsite parking permits and we have never exhausted those permit supplies. So to give you an example, if we've have parking options out at the Tacoma Dome Lot A, which is a 600 stall surface lot, that in large part doesn't get utilized. Um, and we offer permits to students at a discounted rate for $60 a quarter, so $20 a month, um, and we've never sold out of those permit options. With that being said, the university recognizes that we do need more on campus parking and we actually currently working with a contractor on expanding one of our parking lots right now.

Sarah Smith:

Tessa and Vincent, I'm going to switch over to you guys here. Um, so I know you and ASUWT have come together on a project to address this issue. Can you both talk a little bit about that and maybe Vincent we can start with you?

Vincent Da:

Yeah. Um, so the reason why we wanted to collaborate and partner cause it's a lot easier with two people going together and in with a shared common idea just to help students. So one thing that we're trying to do is track more information of student behaviors, how they get to here, and parking or transportation wise and actually use that information that we have to maximize the resources that we have right now. Because I think right now we can focus as the ASUWT student government on the short term because eventually I'm going to graduate and there's always going to be new people. So it's always continuing that conversation and just keep trying to do whatever you can at the time.

Tessa Coleman:

Yeah. Um, I think the big thing is more of, I like the collaboration but it's more of a information and transparency. With parking you always feel like somebody knows something and it's always word of mouth that gets things across to others but the idea is with this, if it's the feedback to the students going to ASUWT why not partner with them and make that the conduit of communication. And together we actually create a survey and so we're trying to gather more information in that manner and that way we can kind of share and come up with better ideas or at least addressing a better understanding of what our population is communicating back to us.

Sarah Smith:

So Vincent, do you wanna expand on that? Tell me what do you hope to get out of this collaboration from the student's perspective?

Vincent Da:

So one thing that we want to get out of this is actually I'm really excited to be on this podcast so that we can address on campus that we are actually addressing this problem. Cause I think, you know, Tacoma does a great job of creating programs. It's just one thing that we could improve on is communicating that message. I think just being on this podcast and just highlighting that we're doing this transportation survey to assess the needs of our campus and look for the problem points. I think that's one thing that I'm hoping to get from this. And then one thing to to get all of this is collecting data. Because we do have some talks with City of Tacoma and some of the data that we collect, we actually share with city of Tacoma has helped better some of the parking near on campus.

Sarah Smith:

And there was a committee right?

Tessa Coleman:

For a transportation advisory?

Sarah Smith:

Yes.

Tessa Coleman:

Excellent. So that one was started and we're actually renewing it this year and bringing in new team members for a better perspective to participate with it. And James is going to go ahead and move forward with launching it.

James Sinding:

I think it's important to have stakeholders that talk about these issues as opposed to students, faculty and staff. Just feeling like administration is pushing this on them when there's a lot of different facets that go into these decisions that uh, some people might not know about. So it's an, an open conversation with the faculty member, a staff member, student representatives that all are aware of why these policies, well, and are actually having a hand in recommending policies to administration as opposed to feeling that they're being pushed on them.

Speaker 6:

[Music]

Sarah Smith:

Hey everyone, it's Sarah. I want to take a minute to talk about UW Tacoma's plan for more parking. The Whitney lot near 19th and Fawcett, now under construction, will be extending north this spring. When completed, the expansion will add 44 or 45 parking spaces to the lot just up the hill from campus. The new stalls will be added to the permit parking supply and sold through the online purchasing tool at the UWT transportation services website.To learn more, visit the UW Tacoma website and type parking into the search bar.

Speaker 6:

[music]

Sarah Smith:

What are some potential solutions for students that might have issues getting to campus? Kind of in mind with uh, equity and accessibility in transportation options.

Vincent Da:

Yeah, I can answer that question. So to address the equity and accessibility and parking affordability, some students actually work two to three jobs to even afford to go to school and $60 might not seem a lot to people, but it is for students. And let's say you don't even buy a parking permit. Even the daily parking permits are like $2 an hour or maybe $6 for the whole day. And let's say you go on three times a week, that was like $18 and then times that by 12 weeks it adds up. So one thing I want to address is that there is actually some free parking, um, on campus or near it. So I'll give you a little context of the history.

Vincent Da:

So, before the summer changes, our Student Center is located on Market Street and all the surrounding streets up there. So I think it's 19th, 15th, Tacoma Ave and some parts of Market Street was actually free. So, a lot of students actually parked up there and there's actually surrounding businesses that you go up higher up to the hill that actually parked there too as well. But a lot of the businesses were complaining about not having parking spots for the customers. So one of the changes that City of Tacoma proposed was actually having a three hour regulation. So it's only a three hour regulations so you don't have to pay, it's still free, but you have to move your car. And that way they want to create turnover. However, it caused a lot of contention with all of our student populations. And we actually had to bring this up to city council members that the parking changes that you guys implemented on the streets kind of affected our students and their experience here.

Vincent Da:

And so right now we're exploring options, how to alleviate some of the things. And one thing that came out of that conversation was that there is the City of Tacoma, will try to recognize the parking permit utilized by students on those specific streets that have been affected. So if a parking enforcement ticket, a person would scan the license plate, it would say that you're a student and that you don't have to, I guess move your car after three hours because the City of Tacoma recognizes that parking permit. And so the reason why they actually wanted to do this is because they want to do it as a study to see how many students actually park up that hill. And so for students that can't afford these parking permits or daily parking permits, there's actually free parking near the Y and up around there you're just gonna have to be careful of the regulations and just move your car.

James Sinding:

So as far as those regulations go, I think it's good to note that a good portion of the campus actually doesn't utilize the 735 stalls that we own and operate currently. A good portion of the campus actually utilizes the City of Tacoma on street, which is public right away. Last year, we did some open houses and focus groups with students, faculty and staff along the Prairie Line Trail. And the biggest complaint we heard last year was I couldn't find a place to park. I was driving around for X amount of minutes only to not find a place to park--late to my class. So then I would park in this 90 minute limit risk, getting a citation or having a leave class to feed the meter. And there was a lot of contention just around that. It's really frustrating when you can't find a place to park.

James Sinding:

So, as part of that complaint, there's the Parking Technical Advisory Group (PTAG) with the City of Tacoma that actually makes recommendation to the city manager on parking regulations as part of on street pricing. And as a member of that group, I had to report back to them that there were some of these complaints and they meet once a month to talk about the next step as far as regulating parking goes. How could we actually make it people can find a place to park for visitors, whether that's people visiting the campus or the retail shops on Pacific Avenue. And they talked about, well, how long is a class? Classes are two hours for the majority of students. And they said, why not implement a three hour regulation? Like Vincent said it's still going to be free, but it's gonna encourage turnover. So basically what you're doing, you're artificially creating supply.

James Sinding:

So when student, faculty and staff go up and look for a place to park, they can find a place to park. But unfortunately, if they're going to have to either walk up and move that car or maybe leave after that three hour time stay. In large part, that goes to students that might not have an 8:00 AM class. Last year, they would come at 10:00 AM and they couldn't find a place to park. That change actually got implemented parallel with changing some of the 90 minute limits to two hours. So that, which historically wouldn't work for a class. Now it does and people are getting less citations because of that.

Sarah Smith:

So Tessa, can you talk a little bit about the evolution of parking around UWT Tacoma and kind of how we got to where we are today?

Tessa Coleman:

Sure. It was very different, I want to say, um, a few decades ago, uh, I started in 1999 and the campus, and you could actually find parking spaces right outside of Mattress Factory, but it was also part of a city street at that point. So the progression and the evolution is, it is that, that it progressed as it moves forward in the changes to accommodate such a urban environment. And as Tacoma builds out and expands and revitalizes that has to change with it, the right away and the street parking. And that's part of what the City does and trying to balance it for all of the community. It's not just the Tacoma campus and that it's, it's all of the Tacoma residents and businesses and the university. So, it's surprising to see how much has changed in 20 years. And it's hard for me to realize, I guess, that each step and what the, what it is today for the impacts, but what were the impacts five years ago? What were the 10 years ago? And it's, it's just that, that next phase. So I think that's part of what is hard for some to see and hardest for those that are new to the campus is that gap in awareness between each other in that, that perspective.

Sarah Smith:

Yeah. One thing we didn't really discuss, which, which I'm sure we should probably touch on too, is the university's commitment to environmental sustainability and encouraging students to find alternative modes of transportation to get to school. And as the city grows it's just going to get harder to, to drive and hopefully things like, you know, increasing maybe options like the train or the light rail will help people get around easier. Do you have any thoughts on that?

James Sinding:

Sustainable commute options is what we call it. I, I, I'd actually like to talk a little bit also what Vinnie said about the three hour regulation, not working for everyone and there's the PTAG. We'll go back and now here the concern that I have a five hour class because I'm a graduate student and I can't find an option for me right now. And they're talking about some type of interim use permit or on street permit, which a lot of cities normally don't do because they want that turnover for visitors for retail purposes. But since much of the property on our campus doesn't have retail, at least West of Market, and there's a potential for having some type of on street permit, and the PTAG group has talked about this and they're talking about providing some type of daily option to where if you found a place to park on street and the three hour limit doesn't work for you, you might be able to pay for a five hour permit or an eight hour permit if you need that, but you might have to pay for that a small fee.

James Sinding:

They're thinking about that for a couple of options. One, to provide an additional layer to the on street demand as well. Two, if someone has a quarterly permit, in our case, they're going to drive every day of the week because they want to get as much use out of something they've already paid for--right? A daily permit isn't like that-- right? There's a cost savings on a daily basis. You're consciously going to think every day when you wake up, how am I going to get to school today and maybe save that $6 to $8 and students, faculty and staff are more likely to try taking the bus or try riding their bike if they live within five miles of campus. There's that and that opens it up to a larger user, right? If you sell a quarterly permit, you sell 20 permits. That goes to 20 individuals the entire quarter. If there's a daily permit that goes to however many people can take advantage of that on a daily basis, which is there's that turnover as well.

Tessa Coleman:

And I think that's the idea that you create as many options because it may work for you today. It may not work tomorrow. The idea is to again, plan your commute plan. What are your ideas for the week or for each day? I don't want to dismiss student activities, student engagement, and it's not every day. So, the idea is that you create as many options as possible and then what fits that day you can pick that option that works the best, and it's more of just that education and awareness and maximizing what assets, what resources you have available.

Sarah Smith:

So, what are some other ways in the meantime that we can help alleviate the problem of parking? We mentioned the U PASS and other modes of transportation. Maybe we can go around the table and talk about that and maybe we can start with you Tessa.

Tessa Coleman:

I think one of the more interesting solutions is that students tend to have this awesome opportunity to consolidate schedules. And so you have that Monday, Wednesday, Tuesday, Thursday plans that usually most students try to take advantage that way you're not, you know, spending five days a week at one place. It's not quite a job yet, even though it is. And so that's a neat way to use your single resource twice for two different people. So James actually launched permits in the idea that it was consolidated with a reduced rate for that Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday. And so why not use your asset for two different people instead of just one if you're doing that? So there's, there's a few different creative ways that you can, you can do that. And mainly it's thinking not every day, what can I do one day this week or a day next week. And you're right and you know, one day you need it longer, when do you need it shorter and how can you be flexible.

Tessa Coleman:

So, being aware of all your options and maximizing the usage of them makes it the best way. So, thinking a little bit ahead on what you can do instead of just making that everyday drive, everyday park.

Vincent Da:

And then for students in the meantime I've actually some action and stuff so they could actually take. So trying to come up with your friends that live around your area to actually carpool. And the second thing that you can do is like whenever we release something like our transportation survey, just take it and give us your honest feedback. The more information you give us, the better data we can track. And also use that information to create some resources that'll help you guys. So those are the two things I think you could do. In the meantime.

James Sinding:

I talk a lot about incentives and disincentives. So students now have a free, U PASS, that's an incentive to look for alternative transportation. Parking rates just went up. That's a disincentive, right? And City of Tacoma on street regulations, that's also a disincentive a bit. So, that's pushing people into thinking about what are my other options, which historically they were able to park on campus for free or very cheaply and that was the only thing they would look for. The campus does recognize that we have a shortage, but those other changes that might not feel so good, those are also steps in the right direction. Right? Those small disincentives that makes one individual think, hey, I take the Number 11 to campus today because it's sunny or if it's raining, it's up to them.

James Sinding:

I think continuing to work with the City of Tacoma on providing offsite parking options for campus. I mentioned , the parking rates that went into effect this year. We can actually go work with the City now on providing additional parking adjacent to campus. Now we can actually afford to maybe subsidize a little of the pricing structures so that they match the campus. We have options like that now, which we didn't have a year or two ago.

Vincent Da:

And then one thing to note, so like anything with challenges that come, there's opportunities as well. So for any students actually listening, we actually have this phase draft mode. We're thinking about having a shuttle express bus come to campus. So when we talked with City of Tacoma council members with the Chancellor. Back in November, one of the city council members used to be a former trustee of Bates Technical College. And so a little context about Bates, they're actually a Downtown campus. And one of the things that has been going through on their campus is that they actually are renovating a new building. So they had to tear down the old building. And within that old building there was actually a parking structure inside that building. So that eliminated a lot of parking for the students. So what they did for the meantime was actually get an express bus to pick up students from a different lot and then just transport them to campus. And it's like a rotation of two buses that just goes, picks up students and drop them off on campus. So right now we're actually exploring that and the Chancellor, agreed in conversation that we should explore that option. So, um, just be on the lookout for that.

Tessa Coleman:

Also, we have posted a position to make that stronger student engagement with a transportation ambassador for a student staffing, and that's posted on the UW Handshake account.

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