U strives to meet parking needs

by Kamariea Forcier

No student has an easy time parking on campus, but with a disability it can be even harder, as several people discussed at Coffman Memorial Union Thursday.
“There are over 20,000 parking spaces on the Twin Cities campus,” said Sue Lasoff, a Disability Services employee. “Out of that, there are approximately 300 to 400 parking spaces” for people with disabilities, she said.
Approximately 20 students, faculty members and staff members gathered to share concerns about parking and transit with representatives from Parking and Transportation Services. The event was planned by the Disabled Student Cultural Center.
Victoria Nelson, associate director of Parking and Transportation Services, said her office is receptive to working with people’s individual interests.
“We are willing to talk to you and find solutions to your needs,” she said.
But some criticized Nelson’s approach.
“There has to be direct contact between you and the students (about these issues), and not just on an individual basis,” said Jane Toleno, a University student and member of the Disabled Student Cultural Center.
Nelson spoke about some proposals that are currently being discussed at her office.
She said Parking Services might remove all three-hour parking spaces on campus and replace them with a contract lot; spaces would be sold exclusively to disabled students either quarterly or annually. However, she said, that might not adequately accommodate students enrolled in night courses at the University.
She also discussed the idea of designating one specific parking area on campus for disabled students, with a regularly-scheduled shuttle bus to bring students to and from class.
Nelson said suggestions are needed so she can “come back with solutions, not only for individuals but for the entire campus.”
Later in the program, Roger Huss, director of transit at the University, spoke about the buses that accommodate students.
Huss said eight full-sized buses and all smaller campus shuttles are wheelchair-equipped. By July 1, he said, all University buses will be wheelchair-equipped.
Some students voiced concerns that the buses are not easy for people to use.
They voiced concerns about areas that need improvement, including University bus drivers who do not call out stops and buses too crowded to accommodate wheelchairs.
Huss said he was not aware of the situation, but would look into it.
Linda Wolford, mediator of the event, said people need to voice their complaints and compliments to Parking and Transportation Services.
“You have to realize, if you don’t make that complaint, no one is going to hear about it,” she said. “Sometimes good things happen that we don’t even know about.”