Higher rates

by Rob Kuznia

In response to the recent on-campus parking crunch, University Parking and Transportation Services officials rolled out a new plan of action today.
The construction of the Gateway Center, the demolition of the East River Road garage and other campus construction elicited the three-year plan, which aims to replace the more than 3,000 spots lost since the winter of 1997.
“The University is not turning a deaf ear to the problem,” said Bob Baker, director of Parking and Transportation Services. “We’re taking a balanced approach.”
Parking and Transportation Services can’t use education tax dollars, so the department must be self-sufficient, Baker said. To pay for all the changes, some price increases will be implemented.
Nearly all parking lots, ramps and garages will experience price increases in either July or October. But public daily-rate and carpool lots — used by a large majority of student commuters — will experience no change.
“We really are trying to be very sensitive to student rates,” Baker said.
Rate increases will hit faculty and staff contract lots the hardest — some faculty parking contracts will experience a hike of more than 15 percent. But a new federal tax law will offset the increase, officials say.
Effective July 1, employees will be able to deduct the amount they pay for parking contracts from their taxable income. In fact, some University employees can actually save money after the increases take effect on Oct. 1, Baker said.
Baker said the steep contract hike for employees was approved before the federal legislation.
“Sometimes the stars are in line,” he said. “This time, the force was with us.”
To add parking spaces, the proposal calls for the completion of at least three parking facilities on campus: a new East River Road garage, the Gateway Center parking ramp and the Gortner Avenue ramp in St. Paul.
The plan also outlines the possibility of building parking decks over the existing transitway lots in 2002.
A 500-space, above-ground ramp replaces the old plan to build a 300-spot underground garage near the Gateway Center, Baker said. Its expected completion date, in fall 2000, is about 10 months later than the original plan.
Overall, the plan calls for the addition of about 3,700 parking spaces for a cost of $85.9 million — about $25 million and 800 parking spaces more than earlier plans.