Director Liz Blume aims to make campus greener, solve parking problem
By Griffin Brammer, Digital Communications Manager
Xavier’s Community Building Institute (CBI) has released parts of its parking and transportation study in an effort to develop both long-term parking solutions and increase sustainability on campus.
A survey, one element of the CBI’s study, was sent via email to Xavier residents on Jan. 12. Students were asked about general parking habits and evaluated their feelings on prospective changes to Xavier parking.
“I’ve been here at Xavier 18 years,” Director of the CBI Liz Blume said. “Parking is always an issue.”
Blume worked closely with contracting firm WGI Nelson-Nygaard to create the survey.
“(WGI Nelson Nygaard) have the best practices around parking consulting in the field,” Blume said. They strove to make the survey more digestible for Xavier’s student body, referring to areas and neighborhoods of Cincinnati to their better-known colloquial names, like Clifton.
The survey was not the only component of the CBI’s study.
“We also have focus groups with students, faculty and staff,” Blume said. “We’re also going to meet with the sustainability committee on campus (and) the mobility committee on campus.”
Blume has also talked to the Student Government Association about parking.
Several questions on the survey were asked in an effort to gauge the Xavier community’s engagement with sustainability on campus.
“Xavier’s a pretty car-dependent campus… If I have a meeting during the middle of the day, I might drive my car from one parking lot to another parking lot,” Blume said. “We’re trying to test the waters and say, ‘Is there an appetite on this campus to become greener?’”
Blume and her team are also hoping to gauge reactions to Wasson Way’s expansion through campus and into Clifton. She hopes this effort will decrease Xavier’s carbon footprint by promoting biking and walking.
“We’re trying to figure out how to maximize (the Wasson Way expansion) and how to make sure that we’re connected as we can be to the larger bike trail system,” Blume explained.
Wasson Way will be the primary bike path on campus and will be a city-wide route. Discussions are underway about a possible northern branch of Wasson Way that would take pedestrians through Norwood.
“I had a meeting to talk about, sort of ‘spokes’ off Wasson Way,” Blume said. “Just creating more accessibility, so that riding your bike is not a hassle, but an easier way of getting around.”
Blume reports that construction on Wasson Way will most likely finish during the first quarter of 2023.
Part of the survey’s emphasis on a greener campus also sought to gauge student opinion on public transportation.
Blume hopes students will be encouraged to use public transportation to travel to different areas all around Cincinnati. Part of this initiative would also potentially bring back shuttle services to campus.
“We want students to feel like they are able to get back and forth,” Blume said.
CBI leaders hope the survey will ultimately illuminate the ways students are most comfortable with achieving a greener campus.
“At this point, given the interviews and the stuff that we’ve done… it’s most likely we can incentivize people to get more bike friendly than it is to get more public transportation friendly, at least in the short term,” she added.
The survey’s goal was also a way of addressing student and faculty concerns over current parking protocol. Blume emphasized that her team is aware of the issue with game day parking.
“The biggest conflict right now is game day parkers who dislocate residents,” Blume said.
While Blume is unsure what this solution will look like, she emphasized that the CBI is keeping the issue close at hand.
“Trying to figure out how to address it is one of our certain principal questions,” she stated.
If the survey comes back reporting a need for smaller changes, such as increased signage or clearer towing guidelines, they will most likely be enacted quickly.
“Big recommendations like, ‘Are we going to do a parking garage or not?’… I think those are much bigger things that would have to go through a more complete planning process,” Blume explained.
While there are no plans set in stone for these bigger recommendations, the CBI has been working closely with its consultant regarding how to implement and fund a project that large.
“It’s not the kind of thing you want to make an expensive mistake about,” Blume said.
Blume confirmed that the idea for a parking garage has been discussed with CBI’s consultants. At this stage, all that has been decided was the prime location for a garage would be somewhere between University Station and Norwood Plaza.
Blume reported that there are over 500 completed surveys to date. Initially, Blume was planning to extent the survey into February, but with the number of surveys complete, she is hopeful to meet her original deadline of Jan. 28.
“I was amazed,” she said in between laughs. “I think it means people care about this topic.”