On Monday, Nov. 25, a rally was held outside of the parking services building located at 683 Linden St. after ASUCR president Julian Gonzalez issued a letter to the Transportation and Parking Services (TAPS) Advisory Committee highlighting concerns and issues he had with parking on campus.
In the letter, Gonzalez stated that parking has and always will be an issue at UCR unless TAPS and campus leadership take the necessary steps to help alleviate these issues now. Gonzalez wrote, “In a time where it seems as though students are continuously being left out of decisions made by our campus; we feel as though TAPS has had a play in being complicit to disregarding student voices in student issues.” On behalf of ASUCR, Gonzalez wrote, “We are asking for transparency. We are asking for representation. We are asking for student input when making decisions that will impact students.” The rally was held in an attempt to get the TAPS Advisory Committee to listen to these concerns.
At 9 a.m. on Monday, the rally was led by CHASS Senator Aaron Sanchez, Graduate School of Education (GSOE) President John Haberstroh and Emily Thomas, the local relations coordinator for ASUCR Lobby Corps. They, along with five other ASUCR students, originally planned to rally outside of the parking services building until Irma Henderson, director for TAPS, agreed to meet with them and listen to their concerns.
In the meeting, Thomas stated that she, like many students, was a commuter and voiced her concerns about TAPS’ failure to notify students about the changes that were made to parking services this year. These changes include the recent time change for gold permit holders to park in blue lots from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Emily stated that one of the main reasons she was present at the meeting was because she received “no mass email and no notification other than the signs being changed” which highlights TAPS’ failure to communicate with students.
Vincent Rasso, the director for government relations for ASUCR, was also at the meeting. Rasso began by addressing the lack of students present stating, “we’re not here on behalf of any university entity … we’re just here because we have a large network, obviously meetings in the middle of the day on a Monday is not something that students are able to access.” He expressed to the TAPS committee that with “UCR being such a large population of commuter students there should be way more transparency in the decisions and the policies that are being implemented that impact commuter students.” He stated that TAPS lacks compassion, diversity and student input.
Sanchez posed a question to Henderson asking why there is no system in place for students to be made aware of changes at an administrative level. Henderson agreed and stated, “One of the biggest difficulties is overall a change in the way the campus is communicating.” She mentioned that in the past, the TAPS department was able to send mass emails to the entire student population but they are no longer allowed to do so. Since ASUCR is the only campus entity besides the chancellor who is able to do so, they suggested sending important changes through them instead. Henderson also mentioned that something she and Tara Elizabeth Pueschel, transportation demand management specialist for TAPS, have been doing every first Tuesday and Wednesday of the month for the past eight years is tabling at different locations on campus including: the patio near The Barn, Lot 30, the commuter lounge and at Glen Mor Market to talk to students.
Henderson stated that typically when changes are made to parking lots, the only people that are notified are those who hold eligible permits and asked the students sending notifications of even the smallest of changes would be relevant to all students regardless of permit status. Haberstroh stated, “In the interest of transparency it should all be out there for everyone.” Henderson said she hopes to have better communication with ASUCR in the future because while TAPS “can push information out (they) don’t know the individual questions that ASUCR may get.” Sanchez agreed stating that with more transparency, ASUCR will be able to answer more questions regarding parking so that TAPS does not have to.
Another prevalent issue voiced by the members is the lack of student input there seems to be when changes are made to parking services. Henderson explained that in the decision-making process, the impact certain changes will have on permit holders is taken into consideration. She then explained how the decision-making process works and said that it starts with the TAPS Advisory Committee which currently consists of only two student representatives, the president of ASUCR and the Vice President of Internal Affairs Jocelyn Ortiz. It then moves up to TAPS associate vice chancellor, then the vice chancellor and finally, the provost. “I hate to say this but it feels like a very internal dialogue, there is not much that students can really say,” stated Sanchez. Henderson also went on to explain the reason for permit rate changes by saying, “if the campus weren’t going to grow we wouldn’t need more parking … in order for (TAPS) to keep up and build more parking we need the funding to do so.”
Another change that Henderson mentioned in the meeting was that after 6 p.m., all gold parking lots (Lots 26, 30, 32, 50 and 51) are free Monday through Friday and all day on weekends. This change began on Tuesday, Sept. 3, but Henderson told The Highlander that “what is important now is to get the information out to as many people as possible so that students can start benefitting from this.”
After the meeting, Henderson told The Highlander that she hopes in the future TAPS will be able to relay information out to students better. She wrote, “We got a lot of great suggestions and support at the meeting” and she mentioned she would be emailing any changes to ASUCR, GSOE and UCR Life as well as continuing to post on the TAPS social media pages.