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Strategies to Alleviate U Parking Challenges: A Parking App and Class Schedules

Auxiliary Services at the U has proposed a live tracking app that would show students how many stalls are available in each parking lot on campus.
Xiangyao Tang
The MEB Parking Lot on the University of Utah campus in Salt Lake City on Feb. 28, 2024. (Photo by Xiangyao “Axe” Tang | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

This story is part two of a two-part series about the University of Utah’s plan to alleviate parking challenges. You can read part one here.


In reaction to University of Utah students’ common struggles to find parking on campus, Auxiliary Services has developed several strategies to improve the situation.

Those include raising parking permit prices to reduce demand, implementing a parking lot tracking system, adjusting class schedules and continuing to encourage students to use public transit and car alternatives.

“The need to build more parking right away is not there — the need to utilize the parking we still have is what we’re working on,” said Auxiliary Services Director Collin Simmons.

Although the long-term plan to fund the rapid growth of the student body is building parking garages, Simmons said they have to be very strategic with how to fund the garages because they aren’t built with state dollars, but from parking permit revenue.

With that in mind, Simmons said Auxillary Services has a “multi-pronged approach” to alleviate parking challenges.

Parking Lot Tracking System

Simmons said they are currently developing a parking tracking system which will essentially be a live-tracking app that allows people to see what parking spots are available in different lots. The system would require cameras at the entrance and exit of each parking lot so they can take inventory. 

Simmons explained that users of the app will be able to set a “preference parking lot.”

“You’d be driving in and you’d say, ‘Oh, there are 38 stalls left, maybe it’s tight, or it’s already full, so why waste my time and go here?’” Simmons said.

At that point, the app would redirect them to a nearby parking lot with more stalls available. Simmons added that he thinks oftentimes students get “locked into one location” to park and “would rather drive around for 10 or 15 minutes hoping for a stall.” 

Fernanda Guzman, a senior majoring in health, society and policy, said she thinks that’s true because she sees a lot of traffic in very full parking lots.

“I think [the parking tracking system] is great and would benefit the students a lot,” she said.

Simmons, mentioning these kinds of systems have come “light years ahead” in the past five to 10 years ago, said his goal is to have the system implemented before the fall 2024 semester, even if it doesn’t have every lot in the system on day one.

Lately, Auxiliary Services has been soaking up all the information they can about these systems so they can take budget figures to U President Taylor Randall.

Alex Duncan, a senior studying writing and rhetoric, said many people at the U, including himself, aren’t fully aware of all the parking spots around campus, so this app is “promising” as a way for the university to communicate to students all the parking that’s available.

Trey Sanders, a senior studying writing and rhetoric, said he’s against the live parking app because he’s worried it will make drivers more distracted.

“Do you know how many times I’ve almost been hit by a car on campus because people either don’t care that I’m in a crosswalk or they’re looking at their phones?” he said. “All that would do is make a minigame out of parking and probably make drivers more aggressive in finding or beating someone to a spot.”

The Stadium Parking lot on the University of Utah campus in Salt Lake City on Feb. 28, 2024. (Photo by Xiangyao “Axe” Tang | The Daily Utah Chronicle) (Xiangyao Tang)

Adjusting Class Schedules

Adjusting class schedules could also play a role in making parking more accessible, according to Scott Schaefer, a professor of finance and advisor to Randall.

Last year, Schaefer analyzed the historical class schedules to see when people are on campus the most.

He found that the university historically has scheduled itself to be the most full on Tuesdays and Thursdays from late morning to early afternoon.

“That’s a time of peak usage of campus … so some of the parking congestion that you see on campus is related to the scheduling decisions that the university makes,” Schaefer said. 

Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and late afternoons are generally lighter.

After completing this analysis, Schaeffer said the first step was spreading awareness to deans and department chairs, who oversee the scheduling of classes for their colleges, to make them aware of these patterns.

“My sense is that some deans were surprised by this,” Schaeffer said. 

Richard Brown, dean of the College of Engineering, said he “doubts [these findings] will make much  difference in the fall schedule because those were set in October and November.” However, he’s hopeful it will help in future semesters.

In an email statement, Mitzi Montoya, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs, wrote that she, along with other leadership, have “heard concerns from students, faculty and staff regarding parking.”

Montoya added that the results of this study show a way to alleviate some of the parking difficulties. 

“That said, nothing is a simple fix — while we consider ways to schedule around high-traffic times on campus, we must also keep in mind the delicate balance between efficiencies in offering classes to students, and efficiencies in campus operations,” she said. 

Schaeffer said he thinks the challenge for the U is that class scheduling is typically done in a “very decentralized manner,” meaning individual departments and colleges are making decisions about when to schedule classes. 

“They’re doing so based on their own reasons, and not thinking about how the choices they make contribute to crowding campus [parking lots],” he said.

Free Public Transit

Students, faculty and staff at the U have free access to the majority of UTA services with their Ucard.

“The routes are good, the trains are good — we just need more people to ride it,” Simmons said, adding that this also means fewer people parking their cars on campus.

He added that the campus shuttles, which have four routes on the main part of campus, are a “fluid department, so if ridership continues to pick up, certain routes are busier than average, you can add buses and drivers … as much as possible.”

Simmons also mentioned the availability of SafeRide and alternatives to cars on campus, such as Spin scooters and bicycles, and making sure that those resources are always “evolving.”


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About the Contributors
Andrew Christiansen, Online Managing Editor
Andrew Christiansen was the Assistant Editor of the news desk at the Chrony for a year before becoming Online Managing Editor in May 2023. He graduated from Salt Lake Community College with his associate degree in journalism and digital media in 2021. Andrew has also been a SLUG Magazine contributor since the summer of 2021 and has interned for KUER and The Salt Lake Tribune. When not writing or editing, Andrew can be found at concerts around Salt Lake (his favorite venues are Kilby Court and the Urban Lounge), watching movies at Salt Lake Film Society, or out on walks and hikes listening to music and podcasts.
Xiangyao Tang, Photo Director
Axe is a photographer and the photo director of the Daily Utah Chronicle. He is from China and is a senior majoring in computer science and minoring in digital photography. Axe joined the Chronicle in August of 2021. In addition to his position at the Chrony, he is also a photo intern for University of Utah Athletics. When he's not writing code, you will find him rock climbing, camping, skiing or hiking with his camera.

Comments (5)

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  • Z

    Zev KatzApr 4, 2024 at 10:17 am

    Just to start off, I do not pay for a parking permit because I have a parent who is faculty. All of my friends give me crap for it and say that I have a “nepotism permit”. I am fortunate enough to have that A permit available to me, but I choose to ride my bike to campus every day anyway. The notion that raising prices on parking permits will decrease the number of permits bought is naive and elitist. If more students are being accepted to the school every year, then the number of parking spaces should be increasing along with it. Freshman are not even guaranteed housing on campus and yet they are expected to make their way up to campus regardless. Claiming that UTA is a solution to the parking crisis is also classist and racist. There are noticeably fewer routes on the west side of Salt Lake, a part of town that is historically less privileged and has a greater population of non-white people. Even if someone in Rose Park lives near a bus stop, it is still an hour long bus ride vs. a 20 minute drive. I see little merit in the introduction of a live-tracking parking app. People will certainly be more distracted when driving on campus, and I agree that it will just cause more competition and reckless driving in order to get to a spot. I would also like to add on to the disgruntled student above that there are a lot more places on campus where signage is spotty or confusing. At the entrance to the Union lot, there is a sign that says “U Permit after 3”, but that is only applicable to certain parts of the lot. I have gotten a ticket for parking on the North side of the lot, when the Southern section is the only one that allows for U permit parking. I am also uncomfortable with the idea of adding cameras to lots in order to determine if there are available spots. Our campus already feels like a police state and monitoring the lots with more cameras will make that feeling stronger, as well as it doesn’t seem like an effective way to determine where empty spots are. Many parking lots have more than one entrance, so it feels difficult to track that. I want to say that making some sort of parking reservation system might work, but that could also just inspire frustration and competition unnecessarily. U of U commuter services brings in millions of dollars every year and they are making an active business choice to not prioritize students.

  • A

    Ayla LehnerApr 4, 2024 at 10:03 am

    I think the app idea is great for helping student navigate parking. Being on phones while driving though is a possible negative outcome of this.

    It’s really hard to not see all of this as a cash grab at students who are already paying so much money. Either way, money is being taken from students from parking tickets or by making the parking permits more costly and it demonstrates a bit of the detachment between the university and its students.

    The reality is that public transportation doesn’t reach some areas as well as others. The U has been talking about the housing crisis and so it’s not surprising why students have to make far commutes.

    I’m general, I appreciate that this issue is being addressed and I hope we are able to come to a solution that helps students over everything else.

  • S

    SamApr 4, 2024 at 9:18 am

    That app is not going to help at all. There will always be people circling the most popular lots. As soon as a valuable parking spot opens up, someone will take it regardless of the app. I agree so much with Alex, people are already not paying attention to pedestrians, and adding a phone to the mix will not help. People are just going to be EXTREMELY competitive about the parking spots. I’ve seen it without an app. As soon as a parking space is spotted it’s a free-for-all.

  • U

    U of U support staff memberApr 4, 2024 at 8:33 am

    Here’s and idea – take public transit and stop turning the whole campus into a giant parking lot.

  • D

    disgruntled studentApr 3, 2024 at 9:56 pm

    A few comments: the public transit argument isn’t a good one. A lot of students can take it but a good number can’t for safety reasons, that’s the reason I don’t because I’ve had multiple unsafe situations in the evenings and in the mornings, its so packed you have to wait a couple trains to actually be able to squeeze on.
    The parking app is one that will help a lot of students out, but raising the price of the permits to pay of the debt faster without making changes to the amount of parking avaliable will continue to leave students feeling disgruntled and unhappy about it. If you want to have more people take trax, create safe ways for students to by working with UTA especially as trax goes through downtown and there can be issues there. If you want to raise prices: ensure that there is some way students are being benefitted maybe change some unused lots into U lots for the students and finally, stop taking away the parking. It isn’t fixing any problems, its making it worse. You can work to build parking garages or even look at lots and see why people aren’t using them. There’s a good 50 stalls never filled in stadium because people don’t know if they will get tickets because it says for “garff scholarship club” but then nobody is ever there meaning it’s parking us students could use if we knew it were avaliable to us.