In the latest last-minute plan to keep pace with campus construction, Queens is offering a $200 incentive to students who agree to park off campus to clear the way for a large crane that – ironically – will be helping erect a new parking deck.
The incentive plan was announced Sept. 30 in an email to students from Dean of Students John Downey. According to the email, students who volunteer to move their cars to the Sports Complex on Tyvola Road until the end of the academic year in May will receive $200 in two installments. Participating students could still park on campus on weekends, but would be fined if caught parking on campus or adjacent streets at other times.
The size of the fine: $200.
“It’s meant to be a strong punishment or warning,” Queens Chief Financial Officer Matt Packey said of the fine. “You are signing up for this. We’ll give you the money. We’re happy to give you the money. You are helping us, and we can’t have you sneaking back on.”
Student reaction to the incentive plan has been mixed. “It sounds like it’s good money for a poor college student,” said junior Christian Allen. But sophomore Liz Westfield isn’t as sold on the idea. “It’s difficult to be without a car… I know for me personally I work and go shopping so I need to have my car available to me whenever I need to go somewhere. It wouldn’t be useful for me to have it somewhere else,” Westfield said.
Lindsey Nuckles isn’t very fond of the idea at all. “We are not guaranteed a spot. We have to park at the Sports Complex, which would require planning an hour ahead, which we don’t have. We don’t even get the $200 cash in full. We only get paid in increments. I am a music therapy student. I have off-campus sessions. This plan just needs to be a lot better for it to be worth it,” Nuckles said.
The email from Downey said 88 parking spots on top floor of the existing parking deck would be lost starting with fall break on Oct. 13, when a crane is scheduled to arrive to help with construction of a planned new 500-space parking deck, due to be completed next July. Access to the top floor needed to be closed in the meantime for safety reasons, according to the memo.
In an interview with The Chronicle, Packey said, “[We actually] need less than 88. We don’t fill the deck every day. When we look at our average counts we need about 60-65 folks, whether that’s students or staff, to really move off campus.”
When asked how many volunteers he’s received as of Oct. 7, he said, “We had an expression of interest from 32 people before we published the request.” Queens plans more promotion for the incentive program, he added.
And if enough students don’t volunteer? “We have a mandatory plan built for staff to rotate them off campus,” said Packey. “Right now it’s about 20-day intervals. Three to five departments each rotate off for 20 days for the rest of the year.”
Packey also said the effective date has been delayed until Nov. 1 because of recent developments with the crane. That could be a welcome reprieve because the incentive plan had to be quickly devised.
“We tried to spend some time formulating what’s the best option, knowing that we know the crane is going up and we are going to lose the spaces,” said Packey. “What do we do about it? It took us about two days to work through that, and then we came up with the announcement… to try the voluntary program to get people to move to the other parking and see if that works.”
Packey said the university is working with the provider of the existing shuttle service between the Sports Complex and campus, approximately 3.4 miles apart. Shuttles now depart every 20 to 30 minutes, according to the Queens website. Security also is being increased the Sports Complex, including lights installed and a security officer. Currently there is a minimal amount of security at the Sports Complex, which has caused some students to express concern.
According to the “Student Offsite Parking Option” outlined in Dean Downey’s email, those eligible to receive the incentive include residential sophomores, juniors, seniors and all traditional undergraduate commuting students who current drive cars to the main campus. (Residential freshmen already are required to park at the Sports Complex because of a parking shortage on campus.)
Participating students would be required to park at the Sports Complex through May 4, 2012, though they would be allowed to park on campus after 5 p.m. on Fridays until 10 p.m. on Sundays.
In return, participating students would be mailed $100 by Oct. 28 and another $100 by Jan. 27, according to the memo. Students could not have any past due amounts on their account.
Asked how the university decided on $200 for the incentive, Packey said, “We talked around with some other institutions as well as with our campus student life leadership and thought that $200 would be a meaningful number.”
The incentive plan is the latest hurried decision by the university as it accelerates $70 million of campus construction projects, which include a new science center and health building, new residence hall and new wellness and recreation student center in addition to the new parking garage. For example, Greek Row lodges were demolished over the summer as part of a plan for a new Greek Village in the basement of Wireman Residence Hall, which in turn prompted a hurried move of the fitness center to the basement on Belk Residence Hall. Dean Downey has said university officials decided to accelerate the construction timetable in part because of rising construction costs.
Want to volunteer?
Students are being asked to complete a form agreeing to participate in the program and drive their vehicle to the Campus Police in Stultz Hall. Campus police will confirm current vehicle registration is valid, place a secondary sticker on the vehicle and mark through the existing one. The form is attached to Dean Downey’s memo ( linked here), and is available at Campus Police.