Randy Vercauteren, RIT’s director of parking and transportation services, is a self-described data nut. And we’re not talking about any kind of data. He is a connoisseur—dare we say, savant—of parking and transportation data. He calculates distances from parking lots to campus buildings, converting the walk time to feet, assessing that it takes the average 3-mile-per-hour walker five minutes to walk one-quarter mile. But aside from calculations and estimations, Vercauteren is more concerned with, in his words, the “feel” of the walk to the pedestrian.
While the average RIT employee might find these facts useless and mundane, it’s this type of data that Vercauteren thinks about day and night.
“The most common complaint I hear is that there simply isn’t enough parking on campus,” he says. “I’m very sympathetic to the conditions of the walk from parking lots to buildings. My struggle is how to connect available parking with where our customers want to park—and have our customers accept that. And of course, parking seems worse when the snow is flying or we’re caught in a rainstorm.
“When the vast majority of people go to retail space, the inclination is to find the parking spot that is closest to the front door,” he says. “They rush in to take care of business and then quickly return to their cars and leave. RIT is a different kind of place. RIT parking lots are strategically placed on the outskirts of campus. The idea is to park your car, leave it behind and proceed to enter a beautiful and aesthetically pleasing campus. We want everyone to be able to enjoy this sense of ‘place.’ We are striving to make RIT unique and beautiful in its own way.”
Vercauteren explains that as RIT’s population expands, so does the academic corridor. And as a result, campus parking is naturally being pushed farther away from academic buildings. His team is charged with helping to ensure pedestrian safety, first and foremost.
“Emergency vehicles need complete access to buildings, and for safety’s sake, pedestrians must be kept separated from cars as much as possible,” he says. “Parking enforcement is extremely difficult on this campus. Our parking infrastructure is such that we are essentially an open campus. There aren’t many gates or guard posts to ensure that people are parking where they should. And, again, we believe gates and posts can detract from the overall beauty of campus. So, at this time, our main control mechanism for parking is to issue citations and limit parking in certain areas. Our primary responsibility is to allow people to park safely and get them moving around campus while maintaining order.”
Some employees are happy to park a little farther away from their destination. Colette Shaw, a student support specialist, usually parks in A Lot, near Building 99, and views the daily walk as a way to burn extra calories.
“The walk to my office in the Student Alumni Union is about 10 minutes,” Shaw says. “During my busiest times of year, I haven’t been able to join fitness classes, and during the lighter times of the year, the weather is nicer, so I can enjoy the beauty of the campus. I never have to worry about finding a vacant spot and I’ve never paid a penny for parking. I’m in my seventh year at RIT, so that’s a savings of more than $1,000. And I figure I save 220 additional miles on my car each year and burn the same number of calories each day.”
Vercauteren is aware of the influx of new construction—happening simultaneously— that continues to make parking management difficult. Construction for the Gene Polisseni Center is expected to begin during winter quarter, displacing approximately 300 commuters in U Lot, along with Sebastian and Lenore Rosica Hall near the National Technical Institute for the Deaf impacting M Lot, Golisano Institute for Sustainability affecting those who park in J and T lots, and Institute Hall impacting those in F Lot.
“We’re constantly assessing our options for parking as new projects emerge,” Vercauteren says. “We study times of arrivals and departures, the density of the populations in the buildings in these areas and, of course, proximity of parking lots to buildings. We apologize for inconveniences but really need the community to understand that growth and stability are often accompanied by new challenges.”
Vercauteren’s open-door approach to parking and transportation makes it easy to find answers to certain “burning” questions, such as whether RIT will eventually run out of parking, construct a parking garage or charge a fee to park on campus.
“There are no current plans to build a parking garage on campus,” he says. “However, there is additional parking being planned. The area south of S Lot, which will accommodate 232 parking spaces, is under construction and will alleviate some of the displaced spots lost in U Lot. Construction will be completed on S Lot expansion in the next few weeks. Additional areas of development are also being considered, but, as of today, nothing further has been approved for construction.”
M Lot, near Rosica Hall, is expected to re-open by fall 2013.
According to Vercauteren, the current policies and procedures in place will prevent RIT from being in immediate jeopardy of running out of parking. But he notes that his staff is constantly assessing variables including student enrollment, faculty and staff employment figures and the current resident and designated resident parking restrictions, which all play significant roles in the parking strategy.
Vercauteren says he thinks the “pay to park” idea needs to be examined and can offset the cost of maintaining parking facilities and providing alternative transportation, like buses and shuttles, to and from campus.
So what’s it like to work in what is arguably the most misunderstood department on campus?
For Casandra Allen, customer services manager, parking is personal. She says it’s an adventure as she meets with students, faculty and staff regarding their parking concerns.
“I periodically meet with students who have received a number of parking citations and I try to get to the root of what is causing their parking problems,” says Allen, who adds that she finds her job rewarding. “Many times I find that they are having trouble managing the stress of a new school or their coursework, and sometimes the discussion turns very emotional. Listening to them is my main objective, and it makes me feel great to help them correct their problems by changing their parking behaviors. After the tears have dried, I give them a hug and am gratified to see them smile when they leave my office. It’s truly an honor to work in this office every single day.”
Randy Vercauteren, director of RIT parking and transportation services, offers these parking tips:
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