Parking rates increase as U loses spots to construction

For the third time in four years, the University’s Parking and Transportation Services raised campus parking rates almost across the board due to the continued loss of spaces.

Rates for daily lots, off-peak parking and hourly parking in surface lots, ramps and garages all increased by 25 cents, to $3, $2.25 and $4.25, respectively.

Costs have risen primarily because of the many University construction projects that have gobbled up surface lot spaces faster than they can be replaced, said PTS director Bob Baker.

Monthly costs for the majority of the contract parking options increased by about 12 percent.

The 2001 contract rate for 24-hour surface-lot parking is up from $44.75 in 2000 to $50 per month, while garage parking costs increased from $89.50 to $100 per month.

The increases particularly affect commuters who drive alone, which PTS estimates account for 42 percent of the University population each day.

For example, students who park on campus every day in daily rate lots would now pay about $450 per school year, more than $100 higher than 1997-98.

The rise in rates this year continues a steady increase in parking costs over the past five years.

Construction of the women’s hockey arena and tennis facility along Fourth Street eliminated an East Bank carpool lot, and the Microbial and Plant Genomics Center on the St. Paul campus will take over a parking lot at the corner of Gortner and Dudley avenues.

The loss of spaces has forced the department to build expensive off-street ramps and garages.

Baker said while it typically costs between $1200 to $1500 per space to build a surface lot, the cost-per-space for a ramp is between $12,000 and $15,000 – for a garage, it costs between $20,000 and $25,000.

The department has received $95 million in University loans to pay for the completed ramps on University and Gortner avenues and the East River Road Garage, which will open this year, Baker said.

In fiscal 2000-01 PTS spent 46.8 percent of its budget – nearly $11 million – for capital projects and interest payments on those loans.

It spent 25.5 percent of its $16.7 million budget for capital projects in fiscal 1999-2000.

The self-supporting department must then recover its expenses through parking fees.

As new parking facilities – such as the East River Road Garage – open, those capital costs will increase, Baker said.

Consequently, Baker said it is a “safe bet” parking rates will increase again next year.

One parking rate that did not increase this year is for the carpool lot which will remain at $1.50.

Baker said the department encourages alternative transportation modes because of space limitations, congestion and environmental impacts of cars.

To meet that goal, PTS contributes to programs such as the U-Pass, which provides students and some University employees unlimited access to metro area buses for $50 per semester.

In the second year of a two-year trial program, the U-Pass is funded through a federal Congestion Mitigation Air Quality grant – covering about 80 percent of costs with the rest paid by PTS – and seeks to raise University bus ridership by 40 percent, according to the department’s Web site.

“This has been our most aggressive program to get people on the bus,” Baker said. “It’s the cheapest transportation you can buy, short of walking.”


Tom Ford welcomes comments at [email protected]