Price tag, construction make the University’s parking lottery hard sell

Besides this fall, the number of applicants has been in decline.

Price tag, construction make the University’s parking lottery hard sell

John Hageman

Kelli Hanson had great luck.

In four straight semesters, she was one of 2,000 students to win a parking contract on the University of Minnesota campus. Hanson, a junior, thought it was strange that she kept winning despite warnings that no spot is guaranteed.

But her winning streak may have had more to do with fewer students applying than pure luck.

Although fall 2011 applications rose slightly from the previous year, the number of entries had been shrinking since 2007, and may decline in the future as construction on the Central Corridor light-rail line continues.

The final lottery drawing for parking spaces on campus was held Monday. More than 2,600 students applied to win one of 2,000 spots for the fall.

Parking contract applications slowly dropped from 3,252 in fall 2007 to 2,221 in 2010. Spring applications have stayed consistent at about 1,900 since 2008.

Frank Douma, a Humphrey School of Public Affairs research fellow who studies transportation policy, said the inconvenience of light-rail construction could lead more commuters to leave their cars at home and rely on other transportation like local buses.

âÄúPeople may find that parking on campus is not as easy as it used to be,âÄù Douma said.

Douma said other factors, like the proximity of new apartment buildings and availability of bus passes, may also make it less appealing to spend money to park on campus in the future.

Jacqueline Brudlos, a spokeswoman for the UniversityâÄôs Parking and Transportation Services, said itâÄôs hard to pinpoint what could change peopleâÄôs driving habits to the University.

âÄúThere are so many different factors that affect how students choose to use transportation,âÄù Brudlos said, adding that she thinks the light railâÄôs arrival will have more of an effect on parking numbers than its construction.

Mandira Randall, co-chairwoman of the student group Commuter Connection, said she has won a parking contract every semester since the spring of her freshman year. But Randall, now a senior, plans to move from her parentsâÄô place in Vadnais Heights, Minn., to Roseville, Minn., where she hopes to find a convenient bus route to campus.

âÄúWith all the construction, I would really prefer not to drive to campus,âÄù Randall said.

Citing the high cost of parking contracts, other students decide to park off campus in the adjacent neighborhoods.

Graduate student Natasha Filipovitch drives from Edina, Minn., and parks in Southeast Como. From there, she catches a bus to campus with her U-Pass.

Filipovitch said because she has no problem finding a free spot nearby and parking on campus is too expensive, she wouldnâÄôt consider applying for a parking contract in the future.

Prices for University spots range from $230 per semester for a surface lot to $450 per semester for a garage lot, Brudlos said. Those rates havenâÄôt changed since 2007.

 Other students, like Hanson, donâÄôt use their parking contracts in order to commute. Although she lived in Middlebrook Hall, she was willing to pay for the contract in order to have some freedom to get around and visit her family in Albert Lea, Minn.

Location, location, location

Due to a decrease in parking applicants in recent years, most students who enter the lottery will win a spot.

But that doesnâÄôt always mean students get the spot they wanted.

Students list their top three choices for parking facilities. If one of those spots is unavailable after three rounds of the lottery, they donâÄôt win a spot.

Some students decide not to sign  their contract after the lottery, leaving a handful of first-come, first-served spots available after the lottery, Brudlos said.

Many of the leftover spots are in the consistently unpopular Minnesota State Fairgrounds lot in St. Paul.

âÄúI think itâÄôs a pretty good deal to have your car right next to where you live,âÄù Hanson said. âÄúBut if I had to park in St. Paul because I wanted my car, thatâÄôs obviously not very reasonable.âÄù