U parking problems persist despite changes

by Heather Fors

Although it isn’t for a million dollars or a new car, University commuters might want to enter the newest campus lottery.
The grand prizes in the Parking and Transportation Services lottery are 1,293 non-residence hall spring quarter parking contracts. There are 625 resident hall spots which are not included in the lottery.
Officials predict that thousands of students, staff and faculty will apply for the rare spots, which are dispersed over the Minneapolis campus. Applications, which can be picked up and dropped off at the Parking and Transportation building, cost $83.25 and are due Feb. 11.
But officials and students are still concerned with the University’s lack of reasonably priced parking facilities, a problem officials have tried to fix for years. Though the department has no official statistics on the number of commuters, Anderson said it is constantly rising.
“We realize that we wish we had more parking. We have a limited resource there,” said Scott Anderson, assistant director of parking at the University.
The lack of parking close to the Minneapolis campus is also a problem, said Christine Hogan, a student in the College of Liberal Arts who commutes to the University five days a week.
High costs often keep students from even applying for a contract spot.
“My funds aren’t that fluid, where I can put up $80,” said Michelle Mlsna, a commuter student in CLA. “I don’t know many University students who have $80 lying around; that would be a luxury,” she said.
But for some students, the idea of contract parking is not appealing. “Parking is always going to be a gripe,” Mlsna said.
Parking and Transportation Services officials have been working on ways to improve methods of assigning parking contracts. In the past they tried tactics such as applying through the mail and giving the spots out on a first-come, first-serve basis, which they did the past two quarters.
However, long lines of commuters formed when the contracts were handed out. Not only were these lines considered a hassle for everyone involved, they posed a possible safety threat, Anderson said.
The lines blocked traffic going into the Washington Avenue ramp and clogged the stairs and emergency fire exits in the Parking and Transportation building.
“We’re glad to see that line go,” said Anderson. “We’re looking for ways to make it easier and more efficient for students to obtain a parking contract.” Anderson hopes the lottery will be more efficient.
Some students agreed that standing in line for a parking contract wasn’t the ideal way to solve their problem. “It’s time-consuming to stand and wait, especially when you get to the front of the line and there’s nothing left for you,” Hogan said.
While the carpool and other non-contract lots fill daily, only 917 of the 1,293 available contracts were sold during winter quarter because people did not want to park in the Como lot. Students avoided the lot because it is furthest away from campus. Of the 433 spaces available in the lot, only 57 were sold.
Parking and Transportation Services officials urge commuters to take advantage of the reduced rate Como lot contracts. And since University buses no longer run in the area, a free bus pass has been implemented which can be used on all city buses.
Though the parking problems at the University will not be solved over night, officials said they are being addressed as best they can. “Our overall goal is to better serve the students,” Anderson said.