For third-year dance student Sophie Dragomire, the battle to find available parking near USC's band and dance building is an extra obstacle in a schedule that already asks her to spend about 25 hours each week in the facility.
That challenge particularly affects students commuting from off campus, who said they have had issues with being ticketed frequently, being late for classes or being left without a parking space.
"I have to go to the dance building a lot," Dragomire said. "We actually have two parking lots, with plenty of spaces, and there's always spots available. Except, every time we try to park there, we get tickets."
Dragomire said given the physical nature of her major, her instructors often discourage walking to and from class, but she is not sure how to get a pass for these lots or if there are even student passes available for that location. The next best option, she said, is metered parking that is a nearly a five-minute walk uphill to the building.
To help alleviate these types of issues, USC officials are asking students to communicate any concerns that they have and to take advantage of other transportation options that are offered given the demand for parking around campus.
Jeff Perkins, Chief Operating Officer for USC, says that he is expecting for about 14,000 residents, commuting students, faculty and staff members to have some form of parking pass during the school year. However, the entire area has just 16,300 total parking spaces for all populations, according to Perkins, and the University of South Carolina has an estimated total enrollment of over 36,000 students this semester in Columbia. As a result,
Perkins said that students should take advantage of other ways to get around the city.
“I try to maximize all the parking I can anywhere I can find the space, but I really hope people will look at (the improvements in) transportation. This isn’t like it was 10 years ago," Perkins said.
The university offers 10 to 12 Comet shuttles that carry students around campus and also runs up to six of its own buses. According to Perkins, the TransLōc app is a good resource to see the bus routes and get an estimate of how long it will be until the bus can get to your stop.
Rides on Demand is another option for transportation if you need accommodations, such as for disabilities, during the day. The service also offers rides within 15 minutes for any students who feel unsafe at night by dialing (803)255-7100.
Perkins said that that one of the biggest things that the university still has to work on is how to get the right information to the right people, and he is always open to continue working with students to find the best way to do this is.
“We are continually working on looking for new places for parking lots,” Perkins said. "Currently the university is looking at a lot near Flora and Evans Street that they are still hoping to hear back from to add more spaces there."
The university has already added two additional garages for student parking since last semester.
"There are two garages that we're getting — the Discovery and the Horizon — ... that allows us for a number of floors for each one of them to really dedicated them to students," USC President Michael Amiridis said in an interview with The Daily Gamecock last semester. "That's the most exciting part for me."
Fourth-year accounting major Caleb Corbitt pays $100 a year to park in university-owned parking lots, but said he is also late to class about once a month because the lot he parks in is full, and he has to find metered parking.
However, Corbitt said that parking near the Darla Moore School of Business is usually easier, and his friends outside of the business school struggle even more.
“All my friends who don’t have classes in Darla all the time really struggle to find parking and stuff unless they pay for a garage. But that’s $800, so it’s a lot of money," Corbitt said.
Overall, Perkins said on-campus parking will continue to be a work-in-progress that relies on the input of students.
“I think that the real key is I want students, if they feel something needs to be improved, if there’s an issue, they need to let us know so that we can address it,” Perkins said.
Students are encouraged to reach out to USC Parking and Transportation Services if they are having any issues by calling (803)777-5160 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.