Freshmen to ride buses to ease parking issues

Commuter student Morgan McVay parks outside the Communications Building on campus May 17. Next year, freshman commuter students will have to park in either the Darby parking lot behind Lauderdale Lanes or in the Florence Parking Garage.

To help alleviate parking issues and open up more spaces at UNA, University Police are requiring all incoming freshmen students who live off-campus to use the Lion Express transportation system to and from designated bus stops in Florence starting this fall.

Students will be randomly assigned to park in either the downtown Florence parking garage or in the Darby parking lot behind Lauderdale Lanes Bowling Alley on Florence Boulevard. Buses will run periodically to both areas from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays.

The Darby parking area, which is an approximate 15-minute drive from campus, holds about 500 vehicles, while the Florence City parking garage has around 170 spaces available for UNA students. By requiring freshmen to use the new parking system, officials say around 750 additional parking spaces will become available each day on campus.

“It is my hope that students will decide to spend their day on campus, get engaged in activities, attend events, go to the library to study and stay here as much as they can,” said David Shields, vice president of student affairs. “This should also save students a lot of money on gas and cut down on them having to circle parking lots and search for spots.”

One bus route will run back and forth from UNA’s Harrison Plaza, located near the fountain, to the Darby parking lot behind the bowling alley. Another route will run all day from Darby to the UNA East campus to Harrison Plaza.

The commuter buses will also frequent student-friendly apartment complexes in Florence, like Ivy Green, Four Seasons, Florendale Arms, Red Fern and Courtyard, in hopes of freeing up more parking spaces on campus.

Shields said new freshmen will receive a letter from officials with their UNA decal and designated parking area included over the summer. When the fall semester begins, University Police will give students up to two weeks to adjust to the new parking system before issuing tickets.

UNA police Chief Bob Pastula said officers will regularly patrol both parking areas to prevent crime and are working to bring police substations to the East campus and Darby lot.

“[The system] is probably going to be a bit different for them at first,” Pastula said. “For freshmen, it will be new to them, so nothing will really change from their end. We will watch the areas, monitor them and make adjustments as we need to.”

In May, University Police proposed the freshmen parking plan to the SGA Senate, which voted informally in favor of the new regulations, which will then be sent on for final approval from Executive Council.

SGA President Ralph Akalonu believes the parking plan will be effective for the university in the long run.

“This is one of the steps that the university will have to take to effectively tackle the issue with parking,” Akalonu said. “I think there are some positives to it, and the overall goal outweighs the cons. It will free up a lot of space for upperclassmen and make parking less stressful.”

Sarah Skipworth, an incoming freshman who lives with her parents in Killen and will commute each day to UNA, worries that the new parking plan may interfere with her daily schedule and on-campus job.

“I would hate to have to grab a bus,” she said. “It would be inconvenient to have to be there at a certain time when you can’t be on your own schedule. If I have to leave and run errands for work, I wouldn’t be able to leave as I wanted with the buses.”

Students will not be required to pay additional money outside the required student parking fee for off-campus parking. Shields encourages students to arrive 45 minutes early to the Darby Lot or downtown parking garage to ensure that they get to classes on time, as buses will run at each stop every 15 minutes.