Campus parking woes

Rob Kuznia

University construction has made it difficult for many commuters — including motorcyclists — to find desirable parking spots on campus this spring.
Construction of the Gateway Center has reduced parking spots by about 900 spaces, while the demolition of the East River Road lot took 1,700 spots.
Statistically speaking, parking hasn’t been overly saturated because the arrival of spring causes more people to walk and bike, said Cari Hatcher, spokeswoman for Parking and Transportation services.
“But saturation is a subjective term. There is space out there all the time, but people don’t want it,” Hatcher said, referring to the spots on the fringes of campus, like those near the fairgrounds in St. Paul. “There’s a lot of competition for parking in the center of campus, where there is little space.”
This being the case, parking coordinator Scott Anderson said he advocates motorcycle parking, because motorcycles take up significantly less space than cars.
Nonetheless, compromises must be made. At the end of April, the motorcycle lot behind the Washington Avenue ramp was reduced by a quarter to make room for two official University vehicle spaces.
“Right now, we’re in a tight crunch,” Anderson said. “So we’re trying to be sensitive to the parking needs of officials as well as motorcyclists.”
The change has embittered motorcyclists like Josh Huston, who said his parking contract went up $15 this year.
“The motorcycle lot is now overflowing and yet that official parking spot is very rarely used,” Huston said. “I wonder where that $15 increase went.”
Anderson said that he has seen cars parked in the lot, and that initially, they had planned on making room for 10 motorcycle spaces.
“There is still room for that many,” he said.
Anderson added the price increase funds parking and transportation in general. Right now, millions of dollars are needed for ongoing parking structure projects like the East River Road garage, he said.
This fall, the lot was demolished because of its poor structural condition. Contractors are currently working on a garage to replace it.
However, a nearby East River Road lot still designates spots for motorcycles, Anderson said.
But Russell Wiegand, a junior in computer science, advises against using the lot.
“The ground isn’t flat, the asphalt is cracked and it’s too windy,” he said.
Wiegand said the combination of the wind and asphalt conditions caused his motorcycle to topple over.
“Battery acid spilled out and burned a big hole in the cover, and I’ll have to replace two turn-signal brackets that got bent, along with their orange lenses,” he said.
Because of the unfortunate conditions at the East River Road lot, Wiegand says he normally parks on the Washington Avenue lot. Early this year, however, snow was still piled in the spot designated for motorcycles in the Washington Avenue lot. When the snow melted, he parked there again.
But his bad luck continued. Wiegand said because Centennial Hall, where he lives, is nearby, he often leaves his motorcycle in the lot for a week. Unfortunately for him, he happened to do this on the week the official spaces were added to an area of the lot that included his motorcycle.
“Instead of calling me to tell me what was going on, they just gave me two $30 tickets — one on April 27, and one on April 28,” he said.
There were no cars in the lot when he finally moved the motorcycle, he added.