The Houstonian’s fact check series explores issues of contention around campus. Parking takes the spotlight in the first installment.
Note: All numbers were recorded from each university’s parking and records offices. Parking numbers do not include pay-per-hour or garage spaces.
“It’s crazy that they just didn’t let us know that there wasn’t going to be good parking or that they were doing so much construction,” junior Carlos Pozo said. “I feel like there are going to be a lot of people upset. If you have early morning classes then you aren’t going to have any parking at all. You either have to walk, get a ticket or pay to park.”
True: Compared to Stephen F. Austin State University and other peer institutions in the Texas State University System, the numbers show that Sam Houston State is falling behind: There are fewer overall parking spaces at SHSU, and more students per parking spaces than Lamar University and SFA.
“We are in a growing pain type of situation,” SHSU parking director Matt McDaniel said. “The walk from many parking lots isn’t going to be as great as people want it to be. Everybody wants to have close parking.”
LU totaled a Fall 2016 enrollment of exactly 5,476 fewer students than SHSU. However, they still have approximately 2,200 more parking spaces available to their students. Last fall, Texas State University had 38,849 students enrolled, which is 18,372 more students than SHSU. Although the Bobcats’ ratio of students to parking spaces is not as high, TSU still has 4,097 more parking spaces than SHSU.
SFA is not in the Texas State University System, but they boast one of the best student to parking ratios in the state. The Lumberjacks recorded a Fall 2016 enrollment of 7,735 fewer students than SHSU, but still have 242 more permit parking spaces available.
(Graph on the left shows the amount of students per parking space)
“As far as the increase in parking it hasn’t quite kept up with the rate of increase in students that we’re seeing,” McDaniel said. “Really, what you’re seeing across university campuses is it’s very expensive as an academic institution to maintain and keep adding parking, so you really want to have a good ecosystem where you have a good environment around shuttle systems, transportation systems, cycling, walking and carpooling.”
SHSU has recognized parking as one of the main issues, and they have acted to try and improve the situation. The Department of Parking and Transportation has worked to keep permits at the lowest price possible by giving students a handful of permit purchasing options, McDaniel said. The Department of Parking and Transportation also moved away from physical permits and introduced license plate readers to faculty and students last fall.
The new technology allows the department to study the culture of parking on campus, which in turn will allow the university to make adequate parking plans for the future.
“Some of the things we’ve added to improve the conditions – you can use rate structure to kind of force a culture change to start thinking about those alternatives,” McDaniel said. “The technology gains that we’ve made with our new license plate recognition system basically gives us an everyday study of what parking looks like and how people are using parking on campus.”
The city of Huntsville is undergoing a large amount of construction, and some of those projects are to help with the parking situation at SHSU. The university is working to add approximately 900 new parking spaces.