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Remote USC student parking aims to reduce traffic near $460 million dorm project

USC Campus Village from Whaley Street (artist's rendering) (copy)

An artist's rendering of what University of South Carolina's Campus Village project will look like. The suite-style student housing on Whaley Street in Columbia will replace older dorms, including The Cliff Apartments. File/Provided 

COLUMBIA — The University of South Carolina will turn prime game-day parking spots into offsite parking for its growing student body.

The remote parking plan is part of a massive overhaul of USC’s southern campus. The first phase of the $460 million new student housing project called Campus Village is expected to open in 2022.

With the initial $210 million buildout, the area will go from 1,213 students in three existing dorms to 2,758 students in four new dorms and two existing dorms. That doubling of beds meant USC had to overcome concerns by neighbors about increased traffic and unruly student behavior, university officials have said.

So the school is turning to two lots it owns a mile and a half to the south near Williams-Brice Stadium on Key Road. Currently those lots are only full seven days a year for the media, staff and operations-related parking during Gamecock football home games.

“Remote parking is one of the options currently being explored,” USC spokesman Jeff Stensland said, which also will aid in the school's goal to make the campus core more pedestrian and bike friendly.

Access to the lots will be provided by shuttle buses. Neither Stensland nor university architect Derek Gruner knew how much the extra busing would cost.

Construction of Campus Village is part of efforts to update older buildings on university grounds to make them more attractive to prospective students expecting modern amenities. Having to park their cars so far away isn't anticipated to make the new dorms any less appealing, Stensland said.

“The key is to have shuttles arrive when students need to access their cars,” he said, so the school will be revamping its shuttle system to increase reliability as part of the process. 

And remote parking is actually a growing practice on other college campuses nationwide, Gruner said. While these lots will be USC's furthest, the distance is less compared to other, more urban campuses elsewhere.

Gruner also said the school has a mobile application that will allow students to track the shuttle's progress and time their trips accordingly.

On game days, those Campus Village students parked in the Key Road lots near the football stadium will have to move their cars. Gruner said there are other lots around campus that are used by commuters which will be open for those home game weekends.

Meanwhile, USC’s enrollment has grown by more the 7,000 students over the past decade to reach 35,000. The school admitted more than 6,200 freshmen this year and needs more places to put them. In addition to housing, Campus Village will include a store and coffee shop. 

Not all on-site parking will go away. Campus Village will have a short term parking garage with 237 spaces for vehicles and 24 spaces for scooters. But student cars will be shunted to other existing garages and surface lots.

The university also plans to move its facilities department, opening up 733 new parking spaces west of Colonial Life Arena. The school will move commuters out of the Blossom and Bull street garages, allowing a portion of the Campus Village residents to park closer to their dorm.

In future construction phases at Campus Village, Bates West and Bates House dorms will be replaced with three new dorms, bringing the site to seven total buildings housing 3,750 students. Parking needs for those 1,000 extra beds will have already been addressed with the previous moves.

Jessica Holdman is a business reporter for The Post & Courier covering Columbia. Prior to moving to South Carolina, she reported on business in North Dakota for The Bismarck Tribune and has previously written for The Spokesman-Review in Spokane, Wash.

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