Mason Parking Tackles Campus Traffic, Parking

The Mason 2014 Transportation Master Plan includes significant changes to parking in order to accommodate the growing student population.

According to Josh Cantor, the director of Parking and Transportation, the on-campus residence population has more than doubled since 2005.

“The basic tenants of the Master Plan are to utilize your existing parking better by going into more of a zone system, which is pretty common in a lot of universities,” Cantor said.

In the past three years, Lots I and J have transitioned from general parking lots into reserved parking spaces. According to Cantor, zone parking system allows students to know exactly where to park instead of searching for parking.

According to Cantor, the transition to zone parking is more cost efficient, as construction of a lot or garage greatly increases the cost of parking permits. Students’ tuition dollars do not go towards parking, forcing Parking Services to increase permit prices after a big construction or maintenance project.

Although a new parking lot was recently constructed at the Prince William Campus, Cantor says there are no foreseeable plans for adding another lot or garage at the Fairfax campus.

“Given how landlocked we are, if we build another garage it’ll have to be done in conjunction with another project,” Cantor said. “So if we build another residence hall, which triggers the need for more parking, it also triggers the need for another dining facility. You have to figure out how to build the dining, housing and parking all together.”

Cantor said that more students choose alternative ways of transportation to campus, reducing the number of single-occupancy vehicles.

“We’ve already in the last couple of years reduced the amount of people buying passes from about 65% down to about 54%,” Cantor said. “That’s through the increased shuttles, carpooling and bicycling.”

Senior Sarah Wardle, takes the Mason shuttle from the Prince William campus.

“For the most part, I’ve really benefited from taking the shuttle versus driving myself,” Wardle said. “It’s cheap and an easier ride, but sometimes it can take a little longer to get to campus.”

According to Cantor, the university wants to increase the number alternative means of transportation. Mason is currently soliciting for a new vendor for its bike share program which will be back by next year.

In addition, once the Campus Drive construction is complete, Route 123 will become more biker-friendly, according to Cantor, and include a 12-foot pedestrian bike path that parallels the entire roadway.

The $15 million construction project is funded by VDOT and should be completed by December of this year.

“The reason VDOT is funding it is that we project that traffic along Braddock Road coming to campus will decrease by about 20-25% at peak time,” Cantor said. “So it’s a major benefit not only to the campus, but it’s also a benefit to the region as well because one of the complaints they have is that the university brings a lot of traffic to the neighborhood.”

Sophomore Shairin Syed is a commuter familiar with the traffic surrounding Mason.

“It gets tough in the morning when there’s a lot of traffic and I end up being late to class sometimes,” Syed said. “But overall, the commute to and from campus is easy for me.”

Mason students can use the Mason Parking twitter to stay informed on parking updates. The account includes almost hour-by-hour updates on what lots students should avoid based on what times they arrive to campus.

This story was originally published in the Sep. 15 issue of Fourth Estate.