First-year parking booms will go live in the coming week to improve safety and security
Wits parking facilities are still insufficient, and worsened since the reallocation of a parking bay to staff only.
IF you thought finding parking on campus was tough, getting the parking office to answer a question is tougher: Is the university charging for parking bays it doesn’t have?
Full-time students pay R642 for a parking bay they can’t always find, resulting in many parking outside of campus or in no-parking zones.
Vuvuzela is not the first to try and get an answer to this question. “Don’t bother trying to take the parking issue up. We’ve been trying to fight that battle for a while now and that’s not happening,” said a member of the Wits medical school council.
And a battle it has been. University bureaucracy seems to hold firm when it comes to answering questions and giving information that is in the interest of those who pay.
Vuvuzela’s “battle” began on August 8 when an e-mail request for an interview with the Wits parking office manager, Vijanthi Purmasir, did not receive a response.
This reporter sent questions and had to re-send them because Purmasir – and later Emannuel Prinsloo, Wits director of campus development and planning – failed to answer specific questions.
In response to an initial enquiry of how many Witsies are registered for parking, we were
told the total number fluctuated throughout the year. Purmasir said they did “not have the figures yet” when asked for the figures as they stood in February and now.
And as to whether the number of students registered for parking exceeded the number of parking bays provided, Purmasir repeated a response she gave to Vuvuzela in March, saying there is enough parking for students registered.
When Purmasir was pushed about why the parking office did not have numbers “yet” in August but was still able to say “the numbers fluctuate” and “there is enough parking”, she did not respond.
Further questions were then handled by Prinsloo who said he was waiting for the total number of permits sold.
Vuvuzela asked if there is a cut-off for the number of students and received this reply on August 17 from Purmasir: “Presently there is no cut-off system for the amount [sic] of students who may apply for parking.”
However, a week later Prinsloo indicated this could change: “In terms of the proposed new parking policy, the intention would be to limit the number of parking permits sold annually whilst keeping a percentage for sale later in the year”.
According to the National Building Regulations (NBR), proposed new buildings need to accommodate for parking according to the type of building and institution.
“The construction of the Science Stadium, similar to the FNB Building renovations and extension, had not resulted in the increase of parking facilities required on campus as the overall student number is not envisaged to expand as a result of these facilities being constructed,” said Prinsloo’s e-mail response.
Town and regional planner, Kevin Wilkins, agrees with this but says, “Council probably would however insist on parking being provided if the new building was to be physically situated on an existing parking lot and there was a direct loss of parking”.
Liberty is given to big institutions when it comes to building plan approvals, says Wits alumnus and architect Tseko Mashifane.
“They can continue to build as long as they prove they have the minimum required bays for a building. It is in fact very courteous for them to provide ‘island’ parking spaces.
“The assumption is that you are a student to learn on their premises and how you get there is not really their problem.”
When many universities began, very few students used cars which allowed councils to be less stringent about parking provision.
WITSIES now have less space to park with some bright, yellow poles blocking off the parking bays in front of the Chamber of Mines building and opposite CCDU.
The reason for these new additions, according to Emannuel Prinsloo, director of Campus Development and Planning, is to provide students with a safe walkway from the newly built Wits Science Stadium to the Amic Deck.
“When the Science Stadium is operating at full capacity as from February 2012, approximately 3 500 to 4 000 students may move between the two campuses and pedestrian movement along the north and south spine past the Village Cafe is no longer feasible,” Prinsloo says.
Nyiko Mnisi, a 2nd year BSc student, says closing off the parking bays is contributing to the parking problem that Wits has. He does not have a car but says his friends have problems with parking.
“Closing those parking bays shows that they (Wits) are not committed to solving the parking problem,” Mnisi says.
Second year mechanical engineering student, Gordyn Loubscher, says it will not make much of a difference to the parking problem. He says pedestrians should be safe because no one drives too fast down the road but that it is better to be safe.
Prinsloo says short-term parking spaces will be available at the eastern end of the Science Stadium but they will be removed once construction on the proposed Mathematical Sciences Building begins.
“We are hoping to have concluded a usage agreement with our neighbour at John Orr Technical School (near West Campus Village), which will yield additional student parking opportunities,” he says.
Prinsloo says the agreement with John Orr is an ongoing process but they wish to conclude it as soon as possible.
Abi Morgan, a 2nd year BSc student in anatomy and physiology, says the walkway will be better for pedestrians but for the first years who used to park in those parking bays, “it sucks”.
“There is chaos on that road in any case and people are now parking illegally on the side of the road,” says Morgan.
Another 2nd year BSc student, Lebogang Mohlahlana, says that pedestrians need to be safe but “not if it is an inconvenience to other students”. She says her one friend came (to class?) late because she couldn’t find parking.
The parking areas to the west of the Chamber of Mines building will also be redesigned so pedestrians will be safe walking from the Enoch Sontonga parking lot to the Science Stadium.