Transportation conversations

Forum gives people a chance to offer input on transportation and commuter issues

Story by Nick Erickson, Managing Editor

In December, University Senate chair Mitchell Freymiller and others received inquiries about solving parking issues on campus.

Tuesday in the Dakota Ballroom of the Davies Center, Freymiller and employees of the administration and parking department held an open forum for students, faculty and community members to discuss parking and transportation issues on campus.

After an hour of presentations and another 45 minutes of audience conversation and question-and-answer session, Freymiller said he was pleased with the progress.

“The discussion was incredibly rich, we had a lot of positive comments, suggestions, and I think some good things are going to come out of it,” Freymiller said.

Parking department employee Christina Hupy began conversation by talking about the masterplan on campus for bikes. The plan is to make UW-Eau Claire more of a bike friendly campus by offering incentives such as food and other prizes. Bike usership would be measured by zapp machines at locations where bikers on campus would scan a bike membership, and a certain amount of zapps would be rewarded.

Bike safety classes would be offered as part of the plan to incorporate more bike use on campus.

Next, Becky Shannon of the parking department addressed  student transit and vehicle options for students on campus. She said there is about a 33 percent ridership on student transits, and they want to increase those numbers.

Shannon said money is always going to be a factor when trying to bring in new ideas. There have been talks and proposals of building a parking ramp on campus, but it is expensive. UW-La Crosse just built about a 600-space lot for more than $11 million, and UW-Oshkosh built a 450-space one for $6.5 million.

“A parking ramp has been discussed, but we do not have the support at this time,” Shannon said.

Shannon broke down the current parking situation for motorized vehicles on campus. Most of the money is made through purchased permits, which makes on-campus parking crucial for revenue. New this year is the Schneider Hall lot’s two-hour parking meters, as well as an open Zorn Arena lot for visitors, which will open this spring.

Shannon also outlined empty spaces in parking lots all throughout campus. According to Freymiller, there are about 3,400 empty spots throughout campus that are waiting to be claimed.

“The perception is that UW-Eau Claire has a parking problem,” Freymiller said. “But as we saw today, UW-Eau Claire doesn’t have a parking problem, it has a parking convenience problem.”

Jason Mathwig of the admissions department showed a chart displaying what other universities do to incorporate visitor parking for high school students and their families.

Currently, Mathwig said the distance from the visitor parking lot that sits across the river in the Haas Fine Arts Center to the admissions building is a bit farther than other universities surveyed.

“Typically, most campuses have less than a five-minute walk from parking to the building,” Mathwig said.

The forum then became an open discussion, where the group made of mostly faculty and community members talked about options for parking, transportation and commuting.

People discussed distributing one-day permits and putting up a weather protection on the foot-bridge to encourage people to walk or bike across it on blustery days.

Selika Ducksworth-Lawton, professor of history, said a big problem with biking to the university is the lack of adequate plowing, which makes it difficult and dangerous for people to get to campus.

“The city isn’t enforcing snow-shoveling, which is a problem for bikers,” Ducksworth-Lawton said.

Questions were then asked and proposals were made to the parking department and administration members presenting. Freymiller said the University Senate will take all of these into consideration before a spring meeting.