When law student Frank Kuhl returned from spring break on March 28, half of the usual parking area near his apartment building was fenced off and the adjacent half was already filled with daily commuters. After circling campus, Kuhl luckily found a tight spot along West Fifth Street.
“It looks like this land serves a lot of buildings, especially for the law school,” Kuhl said. “Some students arrive earlier, sometimes later. If you arrive around after 8:30 am, you’re out of luck.
Near the Adams Center and Washington-Grizzly Stadium, the razing of approximately 220 parking spaces in Lot P began over spring break. The initial demolition comes ahead of construction of the Montana Museum of Arts and Culture (MMAC), which is expected to be completed in 2023.
Kuhl said he didn’t know until spring break that convenient parking might be harder to come by for the rest of the semester. Although the UMPD sent out an email reminder before the break, Kuhl and other students neglected to check their inboxes outside of class.
Paula Short drove a golf cart around the north end of campus on March 30, snapping photos of empty parking spots. As Associate Vice President of Campus Preparedness and Response, Short is responsible for managing new parking barriers at UM, responding to student frustrations, and crafting mass communications to inform students and teachers of alternative parking options.
Short said many of the decal lots she passes — including the lots at River Bowl, outside the Facilities Services building, under Sentinel and along campus — are rarely at capacity. Short said the irritation over limited parking is valid, but attributes the inconvenience to a lack of information about UM’s other parking lots.
” I do not doubt [frustrations] are real. Parking gets really tough,” Short said. “Is there a lack of parking spaces? Or is there a lack of convenient parking? »
Short has tried to spread the word, mostly via email, but is having trouble reaching students. She considered sending a mass text to students before class to remind them of the build. However, the text platform used by Unified Messaging is intended only for emergency alerts.
“There’s no way to stratify it and just send it to students,” Short said. “It goes to your mom in New Jersey who wanted to sign up for campus alerts.”
The short photos taken of the alternate batches are for his reference when writing emails to students, and to ASUM President Noah Durnell. Durnell said he answered questions about the parking situation from students and faculty and was working closely with Short to find ways to connect with the UM population.
“Student concerns are very real right now,” Durnell said. “I just hope to bring some clarity on where they can find a better parking opportunity. Meanwhile, ASUM is still working on changing the actual parking policies, getting new infrastructure for parking .
Some of the options Durnell has considered to streamline parking include changing a number of reserved and metered spaces to decal spaces, updating on-campus signs to clarify parking rules, and finding parking by off-campus satellite for those living in dorms.
According to University of Montana Police Chief Brad Giffin, the UMPD is exploring options that would increase parking availability in lots that are not currently designated for parking passes. Giffin said this could reduce the number of potential tickets for students.
Short also wants to draw more attention to the Park and Ride system. Next to Dornblaser Field, students or faculty can park off-campus for free indefinitely and drive to college in UDash. Short said the lot is abundant with empty spaces.
Once MMAC completes construction in the fall of 2023, short estimates of approximately 80-100 parking spaces will be restored to Lot P.
As enrollment at the University surged last fall — and plans for a new dining hall, boiler room, museum, and sports training center sprung up — the demand for accessible and convenient parking has increased over the past year. Missoula city code states that there must be one parking space available for every three students.
Jameel Chaudhry, associate director of planning, design and construction at UM, said with the new buildings, new car parks must follow. There is a difficult balance, he said, when choosing which green spaces to replace with asphalt.
“There are some on campus who are going to be pissed off they don’t have greenery, the other half because they don’t have enough parking,” Chaudhry said.
Currently, Chaudhry has opted for a dozen spaces on campus to expand parking. Among these are an extension to the dormitory south of Pantzer, the yard between Miller and Duniway, and part of the tennis courts.
Chaudhry said expanding surface lots is still hugely cheaper than building a single multi-level parking structure. The estimated cost of adding 750 additional parking spaces in surface lots is $1.8 million, compared to $25 million for an additional 250 spaces in a parking garage.
Dave Kuntz, UM’s director of strategic communications, said Chairman Bodnar is looking at the optional bundles.
“They have been considering expanding the parking lot for some time. Obviously, this process takes time,” Kuntz said. “With half of the P car park being under construction for next year, this conversation has become more relevant in recent weeks.”