Tarleton police chief addresses questions about new parking plan

By Wendy Rape

Crowded Lillian lot by Andy Barton

Crowded Lillian Street parking lot at Tarleton State  Photo by Andy Barton

A recent proposal by the university’s Parking Advisory Committee to raise fees for faculty and staff parking earlier this month sparked a firestorm of emails criticizing the proposed new provisions. The following week, on April 14, the committee revised the parking plan for the 2015-2016 academic year.

Under that plan, reserved lot parking for faculty and staff will cost $80 a year, compared with this year’s $75 rate. Those who want a personally assigned reserved parking space in a gated lot will pay $300, which is $100 less than the rate proposed in the previous plan.

Texan News contacted Tarleton Police Chief R. Matthew Welch, the committee’s chairperson, to find out more about the reasoning behind the plan and what’s ahead to help address Tarleton’s pervasive parking problem.

The Tarleton parking committee is comprised of 15 people — two faculty members, two students and 11 staff members. It currently meets weekly to discuss solutions to parking problems and how to help with all the new buildings under construction and not enough parking.

In February 2014 Tarleton hired an outside consulting firm, Kimley-Horn and Associates, to conduct a parking study of the university. The study looked at the fees that Tarleton charges and compared that to other universities of similar size in student population. It found Tarleton ranked low on parking fees compared to other universities.

The study also recommended gradual increases in parking fees to keep up with demand as well as support future parking projects and initiatives.

A series of four forums were held by the former vice president of student life over the last year to discuss the increase in parking fees. One was for the general student population, one was held for the student government and two were held for faculty and staff.

The proposed fees were discussed at these forums as well as adding the gated lots for faculty and staff. The proposal for general parking was to have $25 increases yearly in the parking fees until they reached $100 annual parking fee.

The money that Tarleton receives annually is allocated to several different projects.

“One of those projects is buying more land around the university to develop and make into new parking lots as well as maintain all the current and new parking lots being built,” Welch said. “The money will also go towards putting up new gates and card reader systems for each of the new reserved parking lots for faculty and staff. “

It will also help pay for a towing service for cars that are parked illegally overnight in faculty/staff parking lots. Any car that is not registered to park in these reserved areas will be towed if they are still parked there after 6 a.m., Welch said.

When Welch was asked about why Tarleton has not built a parking garage, he said it is not cost effective at this time. Tarleton was quoted a price of $20,000 per parking space to build a garage.

“Land is cheap here compared to Dallas and Fort Worth, so it is more cost effective for us to spread outwards rather than to build upwards,” Welch explained.

Several new parking lots are in the works that should help with the current parking problem soon, as well as several new crosswalks going in across Washington Street, Welch said.

Two new parking lots will be ready by the fall and they will hold approximately 635 cars between the two lots.

New crosswalks should be installed by fall as well, Welch said. The Texas Department of Transportation is installing those on Washington Street at the intersections with Lillian, Harbin and St. Felix streets.

Welch said the committee found in observing the university’s parking lots that reserved parking lots almost always have empty spaces, sometimes as much as 50 percent.

“We can’t grow more land so we are trying to figure out how we can maximize our current model on parking with using reserved spaces, and it is very antiquated,” Welch said.

Most universities oversell their reserved parking because of the amount of vacancy at any one time. For instance, Texas Christian University oversells its reserved parking by 115 percent and Tarleton is proposing overselling by 105 percent, Welch said.

Faculty and staff also have requested that loading zones be added around the buildings. Tarleton has begun adding these zones, but they do take away several parking spots, Welch said. Adding the new gates to the reserved parking areas will eliminate several more parking spaces as well.

Timanisha Holbert, one of the students serving on the university’s Parking Advisory Committee, said that in analyzing all the data, “there is enough parking available” at Tarleton.

“People are complaining because they do not want to walk when it takes 10 minutes to get from the Rec (Center) to the library, if that,” she said. “Everyone is excited to go D1 but no one is willing to go through the sacrifices that’s going to make Tarleton a better place years from now.”

Lara Oler contributed to this report.





One Response to Tarleton police chief addresses questions about new parking plan

  1. Nina Jo Anderson Reply

    September 10, 2015 at 9:11 am

    The parking availability at Tarleton is entirely inadequate! My student pays as much for her parking as the staff pays. Isn’t it as important that the students get to class on time as it is for the staff to get there? Are you growing so fast that you can not adequately provide for the all the students you enroll? I would say you definitely are. My student lives in Heritage, and she can rarely ever find a parking place. When she arrives late at night, many times she has to walk alone from a remote parking lot. This is totally ridiculous. In addition, she pays a medical fee, and needed to see a nurse one day. Her class dismissed at 3:50, she ran to the infirmary and guess what? They were booked solid, and the line was out the door. They informed her they would be closing at 4:00! What kind of medical services did I pay for, anyway? Maybe the university should shut down enrollment at a level that they would be able to provide services for the students that they pay for! For the fee charged for Heritage, each student who buys a bed should have a reserved parking space in Heritage parking lot. I think I will consider a more”student needs” focused university for next year.

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