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Pop-up ‘parklet’ promotes alternative transportation

Enjoying the "parklet" in Diefendorf lot are, clockwise from left, Sam Wells (purple shirt), Paria Negahdarikia (standing), Jenny Whittaker, Maryam Khojasteh and Will Becker. Photo: Ariel Namoca

By SUE WUETCHER

Published September 25, 2014

“There was a sense of ownership of the space among members of our organization — we literally changed the landscape of UB, if only temporarily, and only for a few hours.”
Nate Attard, graduate student
Department of Urban and Regional Planning

Parking at UB. It may be the most-complained-about topic on campus, the one subject that routinely holds the attention of faculty, staff and students alike.

But, says graduate planning student Nate Attard, many people don’t think about the issues surrounding parking — other than its availability.

As future urban planners, Attard says he and other members of the Graduate Planning Student Association (GPSA) are interested in “advocating for equitable and sustainable reforms to UB’s transportation system.” They also appreciate the value of temporary public spaces, a concept frequently discussed in planning circles.

With those ideas in mind, GPSA, working with UB Parking and Transportation, last Friday transformed a parking place in Diefendorf lot on the South Campus into a mini-park promoting alternative means of transportation for the UB community. The effort was UB’s contribution to Park(ing) Day Buffalo, the local iteration of an annual worldwide event in which artists, designers and citizens turn metered parking spots into temporary public parks.

While the space in Diefendorf isn’t metered, “we all pay for it,” Attard says, pointing out that faculty, and staff pay a small fee for their parking tags and students also pay to park as part of the comprehensive student fee.

Attard says that unlike many of the “parks” created for Park(ing) Day, the UB space did not start with a theme. “It really was based on the plants that other planning students and I had sitting on our front porches and in our living rooms,” he says. The students used burlap to cover the asphalt — which they plan to reuse in their vegetable garden on the South Campus — and brought in a few folding chairs and a coffee table. They also attached a bike from the UB BikeShare program and a student-owned bike to a bike rack supplied by Parking and Transportation to define the space and separate it from the larger lot.

The students put up posters asking visitors to envision how reducing the number of cars driven to campus could allow for rededication of parking spaces to other uses. Photo: Ariel Namoca

“It evolved into something nice,” Attard says. “Students came out and ate lunch, and we actually had pizza delivered to the park space before we took it apart for the day. I know other planning students and myself talked to a lot of students, faculty and staff who we otherwise wouldn’t have had a reason to start a conversation with,” he says. “One professor in architecture actually told his students to visit — a few did come by to talk to us — and that made us all proud as well.

“There was a sense of ownership of the space among members of our organization — we literally changed the landscape of UB, if only temporarily, and only for a few hours,” he says.

And it gave students an opportunity to use a parking spot in a faculty/staff lot without getting a ticket, he joked.

The group also set up a table with information on transportation alternatives available to members of the UB community, and put up posters asking visitors to envision how reducing the number of cars driven to campus could allow for rededication of parking spaces to other uses.

“We turned one parking space into a park for one day. What if we could do that for 100 spaces?” one poster asked. “1,000 spaces? We would be closer to the green campus we want.”