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September 3, 1998

Parking & Transportation works to make city more accessible to students through varied services

G. Robert Harkins, director of Pitt's Department of Parking, Transportation and Services, is pushing for an attitude adjustment.

"Too often people at Pitt have been focusing on what we don't have: We don't have open spaces, we don't have enough green areas. Well, I think our focus should be on what we do have: We have a city called Pittsburgh," Harkins said.

With that in mind, Parking and Transportation has been implementing a broad transportation strategy that includes shuttles for touring the campus and city, special weekend bus service from campus to area malls, event-related bus trips for new students, the U-Zone system for free transportation to and from adjacent neighborhoods, and now the linchpin agreement between Pitt and the Port Authority Transit (PAT) system expanding bus and light-rail service to the University community throughout the county. (See July 23 University Times.) "The overall plan really started a couple years ago with Bob Pack saying to us, 'How can we encourage cultural activities among our students and within the whole University community?' " said Harkins. Pack is the vice provost for academic planning and resources management. This past spring a shuttle service, dubbed the Discover Pittsburgh tour, was introduced as a recruitment tool for potential students designed to acquaint them and their parents to the campus and the city. Discover Pittsburgh tour guides are members of the Pitt Pathfinders, a group of undergraduate student volunteers coordinated and advised by Suzanne Harper, associate director, Admissions and Financial Aid. "They function as student recruiters," Harper said. "In any given year, Pathfinders might help 3,000 people, counting potential students (and their parents) who are shopping for an appropriate college." The Office of New Student Programs uses the shuttles to augment freshman orientation sessions throughout the summer months. Coordinator of New Student Programs Lucille Adkins said, "We try to get the point across that you don't have to stay on campus to have a good time. Groups of enrolling students and their parents come to campus for sessions of about two and a half days for what we call ATR [advising, testing, registration] sessions. We try to schedule a cultural outing during this time. By summer's end, we'll have had trips to the Three Rivers Arts Festival, the Mattress Factory, the Warhol Museum, Phipps Conservatory and the Carnegie/Scaife Art Gallery." For a minimal fee, Pitt shuttles also are available to University departments that are hosting conferences or other visiting groups. And faculty can make arrangements to take classes to local sites.

Parking and Transportation also has been providing free bus service for the Pitt community on Saturdays from the Oakland campus to Century III Mall, via PAT's 59U bus, and Ross Park Mall, via the 12U. The 59U operates year-round, while the 12U operates during the fall and spring terms. For scheduling information or any transportation-related question, call Parking and Transportation, 624-8800.

Harkins foresees positive long-range effects of the shuttle system, PAT transit options and other Parking and Transportation services. "It's a shame when kids come to Pitt and know only South Oakland, Forbes Quad and the 'O' [Original Hot Dog Shoppe]," Harkins said. "Now we have access to the whole city and the county. The happier people are with Pittsburgh, the more likely they'll stay in Pittsburgh, so we're building a base for the future, as well."

–Peter Hart

Filed under: Feature,Volume 31 Issue 1

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