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December 12, 2017

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UNLV officials say parking is adequate, but students might have to walk farther after finding a space

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Mikayla Whitmore

The Gateway parking garage at UNLV.

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Tropicana Parking Garage at UNLV.

ALTERNATIVES

UNLV encourages the use of alternative transportation.

The university is working with the Regional Transportation Commission, which already has an on-campus transit center, to take some cars off the road, said Gerry Bomotti, UNLV’s vice president of finance and business.

“The RTC would create an east-west route that would basically cut through campus south of the Thomas & Mack (Center),” he said. “The idea is there would be a road there that would come off Maryland Parkway and allow buses and be able to get up to Harmon Avenue.”

A longer-term possibility is a light rail line, which would run along Maryland Parkway from McCarran International Airport to downtown.

An increase of students living on campus would help clear up parking-related issues as well. A new student housing structure is going up on Maryland Parkway.

“In terms of students who are commuting to campus and looking for a parking spot every day, we think all those things will affect the parking on campus positively,” Bomotti said.

UNLV is widely known as a commuter school, but students pump the brakes when it comes to parking at the university.

Any given weekday while class is in session, car after car lurks while students search for the closest possible spot to key academic buildings, but they are destined to walk a ways after acquiring a space.

Students who wait for a closer space can take longer to get to their classes than those who give up and park farther away. But that doesn’t matter to those who play the daily cat-and-mouse game.

Competition for the closest spaces — among almost 30,000 students and 3,300 staff, when the campus is at its busiest — isn’t as intense during summer sessions, but parking improvements were included in UNLV’s master plan, presented at a recent Nevada System of Higher Education Board of Regents meeting in Reno.

Students will say the parking situation on campus is one of their least favorite aspects of UNLV. Despite the constant gripes, though, UNLV officials say there are enough spots, and that the convenience factor is what drives the uproar.

“It’s human nature to park right in front of the building that you want to go into, and it’s just not feasible,” said Gerry Bomotti, vice president of finance and business at UNLV.

The university has 14,227 parking spaces, breaking down to 10,670 student spaces and 2,137 staff spaces. The remaining spaces are allocated to reserved, Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant, and metered/miscellaneous parking.

Peak parking hours on campus are from noon to 2 p.m., according to Bomotti.

For context, he pointed to the first week of classes last fall. On a typical day, there were at least 577 open spaces according to his records, mostly near the Thomas & Mack Center.

UNLV senior Myra Phui says parking has gotten a lot better on campus since her freshman year in 2013.

“With the new garage opening (last fall), you can tell there’s a difference,” Phui said. “On my first day of college, I parked all the way in the back (in the Thomas & Mack parking lot), but now I don’t have any issues with that.”

Although Phui and other upperclassmen know their way around the campus and the best places to park, the influx of new students in the fall creates a parking strain, she says.

“Every fall semester, there are new freshmen coming in, and they don’t know where to go,” she said. “It gets crazy every fall, and I don’t think freshmen know about the new garage.”

More than 22,000 parking permits were sold in the past year, Bomotti said, noting that students have a variety of schedules and are not all on campus at the same time.

About 18,200 of the permits are issued to students, and 2,500 are faculty/staff permits. The remaining 2,000 are sold as reserved and ADA-access parking passes.

The 600-space University Gateway Parking Garage opened in October on Maryland Parkway across from the main campus. Even with its close proximity, that structure wasn’t filling out daily, Bomotti says.

“It was maxing out at about 500,” he said. “So I think we feel like we’re staying ahead of the parking need.”

To keep up with expected growth, UNLV is looking to construct a similar parking structure on the other side of the campus, north of Harmon Avenue, once a partner is found.

The structure is still four to five years away, Bomotti says.

Additional spaces will go up this year where the Environmental Protection Agency building sits.

“We are increasing some surface parking right now,” Bomotti said. “We’re adding spaces where the EPA building was. We tore down one of the old buildings that (the EPA) abandoned, and this summer there will be a new lot in there, which will add almost 100 spots.”

Another parking structure could go up near an existing one on Tropicana Avenue near the Thomas & Mack Center, and then another one on the east side of Maryland Parkway will be considered a few years down the line, Bomotti said.

Bomotti said another potential parking structure, with a walkover bridge, could be constructed at the Paradise campus across from the Thomas & Mack Center.

A goal of UNLV’s master plan is to have 18,500-22,500 parking spaces in the next 15-25 years. Relatively modest parking upgrades will be considered but not a large addition, Bomotti says.

“This will be incremental over some longer period of time to add parking here and there,” he said. “With the addition of the Gateway parking structure, we’re in pretty decent shape.”

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