Fewer students sign up for parking lottery

The number of student residents signing up for the parking lottery has steadily declined in the last three years, and about 700 fewer commuters signed up for the spring lottery than the fall. Although the price of a parking space and the number of spaces available have stayed about the same over the years, fewer students elected to sign up. In spring 2006, about 3,000 commuters and more than 800 campus residents put their name in the parking lottery. For this yearâÄôs parking lottery, which closed on Dec. 4, fewer than 2,000 commuters signed up and about 450 campus residents. Mary Sienko, spokeswoman for Parking and Transportation Services, said the availability of contract parking spaces has not changed considerably since 2006. In the past three years, PTS offered students, staff and faculty about 12,000 spots for contract parking on campus, Sienko said. Prices for contracts have not changed significantly either. In October of 2006, for example, contract parking for lots, ramps and garages ranged between $61 and $117 per month. This year, prices are between $65 and $127 per month, according to the PTS website. Historically, about 60 percent of commuters who sign up for the lottery get a contract while about 50 percent of campus residents do, Sienko said. Jason Cao, an expert in travel behaviors at the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, said many people drove less this year because of the increase in gas prices. Although gas prices have lowered, Cao says people are now tightening their belts for another reason âÄî the financial crisis. âÄúEverybodyâÄôs pocket is kind of thin and itâÄôs not easy for people to spend money on parking,âÄù he said. âÄúEven though gas prices are back down, people are still uncertain for their future and how to survive this financial crisis.âÄù Cao said many people switched over to public transit when gas prices increased. TheyâÄôre continuing to use transit because itâÄôs cheaper and the economy is struggling. Increased U-Pass usage this fall suggests that more students are using public transit to get around. Katie Leivain , a biology sophomore and an officer in the Commuter Connection student group , said she uses her U-Pass to take the bus to campus. She said she has considered signing up for the lottery in the past, but the price of parking and gas persuaded her to take the bus. Leivain said the economy and higher gas prices made many commuters rethink their mode of transportation. Many Commuter Connection members ride the bus instead of driving, even though they live far away in places like St. Francis, she said, about 40 miles from Minneapolis. âÄúThey are riding the train and buses because it is more convenient and cheaper,âÄù she said.