Every year during the first week of classes, students realize anew that parking on a landlocked urban campus shared by over 30,000 other drivers is a nuisance. The perennial issue is more acute this year, as the student population is one of the highest in UT history, and we are all fresh out of practice at interacting with other people due to the pandemic school year of 2020-2021.
As UT’s Parking and Transit Services do their part to make navigating campus easier, here are some simple tips for how you can navigate campus in a more effective way, with some help from Moira Bindner, communications and customer service manager for Parking and Transit Services. And remember: it always gets easier after the first few weeks.
Park your car once and leave it
Many students make the mistake of trying to strategically move their car throughout the day to get closer to whatever buildings their classes are in. This is especially true for students who have classes with a big walk between them. But, it’s a mistake you tend to make only once.
Factoring in the walk to the garage or lot and then the traffic-ridden midday drive, driving between classes is slower than walking in many cases. Bindner recommends that students make a plan to park their cars once and use the T Bus or possibly a bike to get from class to class.
“Park it once,” Bindner said. “Park it once and be done with it.”
Get familiar with the T Bus system
Many students will ride the T Bus for their very first time this year, since only current seniors have ever had a normal school year on campus. But there has never been a better time to familiarize yourself with the free bus system and its various convenient routes across campus, including the new Ag Express route. Read city editor Maddy Muschek’s guide to the T Bus to find out more.
Bindner says that her office’s efforts to get students to use the T Bus is not a way to make themselves feel better, but instead is a vital solution to chronic campus transit problems.
“It’s not even just a feel good thing, this is a strategic way of managing 30,000 people or more, 35,000 people,” Bindner said. “We’re a small city, so this is a strategic way to manage 35,000 people getting around without 35,000 cars.”
Look at the Parking website and Twitter to see where the best places (and backup places) to park are
It’s fair to say that the average UT student does not frequent the UT Parking website. But, the website contains many answers to the parking questions that the average student has. These answers include live availability counters for the largest commuter lots, campus maps that show garages and lots as well as who is allowed to park in them and information about special events and permits.
The Parking and Transit Twitter page also tweets out live updates on parking availability and is worth a follow.
“There is a get-to-know-where-the-parking-areas-are crisis,” Bindner said. “If you just take 10 minutes later on today, just to kind of go through my webpage, even just look at the navigation, I got a lot of questions, I got a lot of answers, I got maps there, but nobody looks. Nobody looks.”
Show up to campus earlier
Perhaps the simplest way to ensure you get a parking spot is to come to campus before other drivers, especially since some of the largest garages are full by 8 or 9 a.m.
“I would encourage students that have a 10 o’clock class to be here at 9,” Bindner said. “Go get a cup of coffee. Hang out. Just make parking a non-issue by getting here early. It’s those people that come at 10 minutes before 10 for a 10 o’clock class and then yell at us because they can’t find a parking place next to the building.”
Walk or bike whenever possible
Lastly, make transit less of a headache for yourself and get some exercise in by walking or biking to campus whenever possible. It can be hard to do at the beginning of the year when it’s so hot outside, but as Bindner reminds students, there’s inevitably going to need to be fewer cars on campus, given the price of a new garage and the limitations of space on a landlocked campus.
“This is the sandbox we have to play in, and so I just have to let people know that this is what we’ve got,” Bindner said. “We can’t build a new sandbox.”