Free parking could become

Student commuters have all heard the axiom: There is no free parking on campus.
But some University administrators say there might be by next fall.
In a report to the Board of Regents on Friday, two officials announced the administration’s intent to offer free parking in several campus lots on nights and Sundays.
But Bob Baker, director for Parking and Transportation Services, said his department needs to analyze all the consequences of free parking — such as examining the financial impact, handling security issues and deciding which locations would work best.
The early outline called for free parking on weekday evenings after 10:30 p.m. and all day Sundays. Parking lots would begin charging again sometime in the early morning hours. Eric Kruse, vice president of University Services, said he is hoping the designated time can be pushed earlier to 9 p.m. or 9:30 p.m. to accommodate more visitors.
Administrators said the free parking would encourage people to come to campus. Kruse said he would have liked to offer free parking all weekend, but the offer was more feasible on Sundays. Because of the high number of Saturday visitors drawn to campus for events, the University would likely see a significant loss in revenue.
“We can’t financially afford to do that,” Kruse said.
Tony Armlin, owners’ representative for the University, and Kruse presented the idea to the board in the context of the South Mall renovation.
On Thursday, Regents approved construction of an underground parking ramp to replace the East River Road parking ramp south of Coffman Union.
Kruse said the new ramp might serve as one site for potential free parking; administrators’ goal is to spread out the free parking across campus, with designated sites on the West Bank, East Bank and St. Paul campuses.
But Baker said the discussion on free parking is in its very early stages; it’s too early in the process to have a clear picture of any of the proposed project’s details, he said.
“We need to be sure that we take a very thorough look at it before we move forward,” Baker said.

— Stacy Jo Enge