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April 28, 2016

SAC members question availability of parking

Gina Gowins, Office of Parking Services’ alternative transportation coordinator, came to the April 20 Staff Association Council meeting hoping to promote the use of alternatives to personal vehicles for people’s daily commute to Pitt.

But SAC members’ were most concerned about the difficulty of parking on campus.

SAC member Matt Richardson, from the Office of Cross Cultural and Leadership Development in Student Affairs, opened the question session by suggesting that more parking was needed and recommended that SAC lead the push for this improvement. The situation was especially displeasing, he said, for those who have been on a parking-spot waiting list for years, only to be bumped further down the list by those hired later but at a higher administrative level.

“Chancellor Gallagher should not be on the wait list for a parking space — I get that,” Richardson said. But he said it seemed unfair to watch others jump ahead based on factors other than time served on the list.

Pitt’s Parking office lists just a few of the factors that may affect an employee’s spot on a waiting list for a parking spot: Department relocations, lot closings and the need for handicapped parking.

Cost was another concern cited at the meeting: “Boy, it would be great if I had a place to park that didn’t cost me my whole paycheck,” said one member. Current costs for indoor garage parking is $92 per month, while outdoor lots cost $85 per month.

Jessica Tebbets, senior research specialist in orthopaedic surgery in the School of Medicine, asked: “How do I set up a carpool if I have to wait three years for a parking space?” Do carpool drivers need to recruit members to establish their carpool before they are allowed to secure a space? she continued. If so, why would anyone sign up to carpool with her before she is guaranteed a Pitt parking space?

“Is there any incentive for carpoolers?” she added.

According to the Parking office website, carpoolers together need to purchase only one parking permit, and its cost is reduced by $5 per month per passenger, up to three passengers — not counting the driver. When the carpool driver is unable to drive, the University offers courtesy parking (twice per semester, or six times per year) for registered riders who have obtained the necessary hangtag from the office. And the CommuteInfo emergency ride home program provides transportation to registered carpoolers with an emergency need to leave campus early.

Another SAC member suggested that Pitt team with other major Oakland institutions to create carpooling incentives that cover combined employee pools.
Gowins pledged to take SAC’s concerns back to her office, while cautioning that her own area of expertise was in encouraging Pitt employees to take buses or use the University shuttle — even walk or bicycle — into Oakland for their daily commute.

More than 60 percent of people traveling to Pitt’s campus use a method other than driving their own cars, she reported. The Parking office currently is recruiting Pitt volunteers for a storytelling campaign that will, she hopes, promote even greater use of alternative transportation. If people are willing to share such tales, Gowins said, “Those personal stories really make a connection to people and educate them about alternatives.”

Stories should be sent to 204 Brackenridge Hall, emailed to Gowins at or tweeted to @PittParking.
In May, she plans to begin sharing stories via her office’s Twitter and Facebook accounts.


In other SAC news:

SAC plans to push the University’s Human Resources office to make some changes to its parental leave policy, with SAC members scheduled to vote via email on the final wording of the suggested policy changes before the group’s May meeting.

According to SAC parliamentarian Fiona Seels, from the School of Education’s technology department, SAC’s proposal will include some paid leave for staff, which only faculty currently have, and changes to how unpaid leaves may be taken under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

The proposed policy wording was unavailable at press time.

According to the Human Resources website, eligible Pitt staff members are allowed “up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave” under FMLA for a variety of reasons, centered around childbirth or adoption, the care of immediate family members and serious illnesses.

Such leave time need not be taken continuously.

In addition to identical rights under the FMLA, qualifying faculty are afforded up to 26 paid work weeks a year for a serious medical condition and up to four work weeks of paid leave after the birth or adoption of a child.

—Marty Levine 

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