Solving the Parking Puzzle

November 1, 1997

Carol Schlueter

It could be a script from "Mission Impossible": Find an additional 250 parking spaces across the Uptown campus to help relieve the parking crunch. And do it by the start of the new year. Yvette Jones, vice president for finance and operations, took on the challenge earlier this year. She has puzzled together a plan for the needed parking spots by a combination of creative uses of campus space, shifts of certain operations to off-campus sites and new uses of Tulane-owned property adjacent to campus.

Piece by piece, and with the help of campus public safety and a study by consultants GCR and Associates of Metairie, approximately 286 new parking spaces have been identified as a fix to the short-term parking problems.

The crunch is somewhat evident all across campus now, but the event that shifts it into a potential crisis is the closing of the Willow Street parking lot and loss of its 218 spaces on Nov. 30. Pile-driving is scheduled to begin on that site during Christmas break, signaling the start of new student housing construction, said Tony Lorino, senior vice president for operations and chief financial officer.

The Collins C. Diboll Complex is expected to accommodate many of the Willow lot parkers, most of whom are students. "Our needs, in order, are parking for students, staff and faculty," said Jones. While there are now some 1,214 yellow zone spaces for parking by faculty, staff or students, in December that number will drop to 1,059. Currently there are also 342 faculty-only parking spots and another 556 for faculty or staff.

Ken Dupaquier, director of public safety, estimated that about 150 spaces are now vacant daily in the Diboll garage (prior to the Willow lot closing), especially on the fifth and sixth floors.

Here's how the university will acquire the rest of the needed parking spaces:

- About 60 parking spaces will open up by converting the section of Ben Weiner Drive between Claiborne and its intersection with McAlister extension to a one-way street coming into campus and instituting parallel parking down the side of the street. This change will take place later this semester, Jones said.
- When the sewer improvements are completed along McAlister Drive and the long-closed Drill Road in mid-January, parking in those areas will reopen, gaining about 83 spaces, Dupaquier said. He believes those measures will head off the immediate difficulties.

"I really don't see a crunch this year; I see a crunch next fall," Dupaquier said, because the continued growth of freshman classes ultimately results in greater demands for parking. Jones, meanwhile, is moving forward with additional parking plans in other areas of campus that will take more time to complete.

For example, there are two areas of Tulane-owned property adjacent to campus--one lot off Weinmann Road near the law school and another area along Willow Street--that are scheduled to become parking zones by the spring of next year. A plan to rework the Library Road area between Fogelman Arena and Jones Hall would yield about 20 parking spaces, Jones said. That work should be complete by next summer.

Shifting two departments off campus will also open up parking potential. The campus will gain about 50 parking spaces in late January when the Office of Institutional Advancement staff is scheduled to relocate from Monk Simons Building to leased space off-campus near Touro Hospital. The university's recent purchase of the Rohm's Floral Designs property at 8333 Maple Street near River Road also will result in additional parking on campus as departments are shifted to the new space, also sometime in the spring.

Lorino said the Rohm's property, purchased in September, offers "a lot of flexibility" for uses such as shipping and receiving, since the location has a large receiving dock and storage capability. Tulane takes possession of the property Nov. 15, and while final decisions have not been made, Lorino said moving the purchasing and receiving departments is very likely.

In this scenario, the current greenhouse beside the physical plant building would be moved to the Rohm's location, as well as certain physical plant vehicles, making room for parking spaces, possibly as many as 40, Jones said.

"It's piecing a lot of it together, but it comes out to about 286 places" gained through these moves, Jones added. "We're feeling pretty good about the interim process." For Carole Dahlem, assistant director of public safety, the plans are welcome. "It's going to be tight but I'm really impressed with Yvette and Tony's commitment to taking care of parking needs at this time. There is no spot that hasn't been looked at."

In addition to the concerns of students, faculty and staff who need to park on campus, Dahlem also points out the importance of taking care of visitors' parking needs. The consultants and Jones are continuing to look at the long-term campus parking issues, including the possibility of building another parking garage somewhere on campus, which would be a two- to five-year process from planning to implementation.

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