Brigham Young University wants to connect more with the community and begin working on issues that affect the public.
“BYU has not always been perceived as a good neighbor,” said Steve Hafen, managing director of Alumni and External Relations.
Issues affecting the community like on-campus parking for the public has come to the attention of the newly-formed Community Relations Council on which Hafen chairs.
Recent and planned additions to the physical plant on the BYU campus has led the university to review their parking demands at the university.
This is where the Community Relations Council (CRC), a small committee that is a formal advisory committee to President Kevin J. Worthen, comes in. It reviews and vets community-related issues, meets with city leadership and reports to the president.
The CRC is meeting with Mayor Michelle Kaufusi on a monthly basis. It has also studied and vetted the issue of non-students who are concerned about the parking accommodations on campus.
“BYU understands the concern but remains committed to reducing vehicles on campus while ensuring sufficient parking,” Hafen said.
When it comes to parking availability, Hafen said that for the 32,878 students, there are 19,000 on-campus parking stalls with a student-to-stall ratio of about 1.73 students per stall.
Hafen noted that alternative transportation options have proved to be helpful and is opening parking on campus.
Utah Transit Authority’s UVX Route, which offers free rides to students, has increased ridership by 58% over the past year, Hafen said. Hundreds of students are using UVX to get to school.
Ryde, a free contracted shuttle service with six pick up and drop off points, has also increased ridership and is now averaging 8,000 rides per day.
“We are trying to dissuade them (students) to not bring cars but to use alternative transportation,” Hafen said.
Provo Councilman David Harding said he was concerned about the on-street parking students are using rather than buying a parking permit for campus parking.
“The council is looking at a parking program,” Harding said. The parking issue has been an ongoing issue in one way or another for several years.
Council Chairman George Handley said he has noticed a big difference in parking availability on campus with help from the UVX, scooters and bike rentals.
“This is really a terrific development,” Handley said.
Hafen said the university is also interested in bike rentals on campus. Scooters are not allowed.
An announcement earlier this year that BYU will up its enrollment has some concerned that freed up parking will disappear.
CRC indicates that enrollment is expected to go up several hundred students next year, but about 40% of those freshmen students will immediately defer to serve missions.
One of the other ideas to free up parking spaces will require BYU students to complete 15 credit hours of classes online.
Hafen said the key point to the council discussion is to know there is a big commitment from BYU to be proactive on community issues.