Campus parking has been a major gripe among students over the past several years, resulting in UB's commissioning Chance Management Advisors Inc., a Philadelphia-based consulting firm, to conduct a study regarding parking and transportation issues on UB's campuses.
While the final draft has not been completed, the company has raised several key issues. The most glaring problem, according to Barbara Chance, president and CEO of the company, is a lack of communication between the administration and the students regarding parking and transportation options.
She also cited an insufficient amount of parking near the Academic Spine on North campus and an aging fleet of busses and shuttles as problems that could become worse in upcoming years.
"We are trying to get (the final draft) done as soon as possible," said Chance. "We are a little late and the university is very eager to have them, and we are very eager to get them there."
The university expected to receive a detailed report by the end of the spring semester, said James Nadbrzuch, assistant vice president of student affairs. Until the final report is completed and UB officials have a chance to review and discuss it with Chance Management, neither party will comment on what the company's formal suggestions are alleviating the university's parking dilemma.
According to Chance, the firm spent months at UB collecting data using various methods, including campus surveys and forums with students and faculty. The company compared UB to a group of peer universities from a list compiled by UB, which included schools such as Syracuse University and the University of California at Los Angeles.
Chance said she was pleased with the amount of student involvement with the study and that the company obtained "about 4,300 valid responses to the survey" through its Web site and face-to-face interviews.
"We had a lot of student participation," she said.
While the data must be analyzed to receive in-depth suggestions, Chance expressed a need for UB to better publicize the bus routes and schedules and to increase awareness of the locations of overflow parking lots.
Nadbrzuch said that the administration is already looking at the issue and that the Department of Parking and Transportation is producing a video that will be used at all future orientations to educate students on UB's parking and transportation options, as well as encourage more students to utilize the university's shuttles and buses.
"The busses themselves are the most ancient, but the hours of operations are pretty comparable to the other institutions (in the survey group)," Chance said. However, she said, only around 20 percent of UB's students have ever set foot on a university bus.
Faculty and staff parking - which is free of charge - further complicates the parking situation.
"Due to the organized labor agreement, the fact is the staff lots can't be moved without it becoming a negotiating point in the contract," she said. "They can't even be displaced for a garage."
"But (UB students) also had among the lowest student fees," she added.
Possibilities for improving the parking situation on campus include constructing a parking garage, improving the lighting on campus and adding more short-term parking. The studies showed that students are not opposed to building a parking lot, unless their fees would increase as a result.
"To get a parking garage would mean higher rates for everybody in order to pay for the garage," Chance said.
If students and faculty were unable to obtain convenient parking spaces, they said "they wanted a better walkway, particularly in the late afternoon and evening," said Chance.
Some positive aspects of UB's transportation system, according to Chance, are the intercampus bus system and a reasonable ticket appeal process for violations. The fact that UB has a low-operating cost is something of a double-edged sword, she said; for the size of the campus and the activities that take place here, the amount of parking and transportation staff available is not adequate.
Chance suggested UB create a regular off-campus bus route to eliminate the need for students residing on campus to own cars.
While the university is still awaiting Chance Management's formal proposals, it has already implemented some initiatives to improve the intra-campus transportation service, namely the orientation parking video and the new, extensive intra-campus shuttle service.
While everyone involved agrees parking is an issue at UB, Joe Sciulli, senior operations consultant for Chance Management Advisors, pointed out that the main purpose of the study was to consider the effects of future projects, namely the Lee Road Project, which may aggravate pending parking issues.
"What the university has done by raising the issue is that they're looking down the road," said Sciulli. "They're actually anticipating when future growth and development would make parking more problematic than what it is now."
"What the university is trying to do is really get set up to plan for all these changes, so that it makes the existing situation as good as possible," said Chance.