As on-campus parking dries up in a sea of construction, transportation rates increase

Mike Rose

University Parking and Transportation Services increased on-campus hourly and daily parking rates Sunday, citing a decreasing land base and inflationary costs.

The Huron Boulevard Parking Complex also closed to make room for stadium construction.

Contract parking rates will increase beginning October 1. Prices for University bus passes, which include the U-Pass for students and the Metropass for faculty, will increase slightly this fall.

Mary Sienko, marketing manager for the department, said price increases are a result of rising business costs, which can include external factors such as the cost of gas or internal upkeep costs.

“(The price to park) really is dependent on the costs that come into play, and we analyze that every year,” she said.

Sienko added that stadium-related construction played a role in the price increase and the Huron complex closure. She urged drivers to consider alternative forms of transportation to the East Bank, such as biking or busing.

For those who must drive, Sienko said some options will still be available. The former Hawkeye Lot in the Huron complex will remain open in the fall, renamed the Maroon Lot.

Lot 37, behind Mariucci Arena, added spaces and should allow an additional 300 drivers to park there by fall.

Despite these measures, Sienko expects the University to lose roughly 900 spots. She said the long-term goal is to regain these lost spots by adding new lots, but many of the proposed lots are planned in conjunction with the stadium and won’t be built this year.

Stadium construction is slated for completion in time for the fall 2009 football season.

Future parking plans include a lot adjacent the transitway near Highway 280, Sienko said.

She said she could understand complaints about price and availability, but noted that parking costs elsewhere in Minneapolis are typically higher and that commuters could consider parking in

St. Paul and use the Campus Connector if they have trouble finding room on the East Bank.

“It’s a difficult time for all of us, but we just need to be patient,” she said.

Campus commuters have mixed reactions to the higher rates and the closed lots.

Abdul Malmi, a physics junior who commutes from Shakopee, said he used the Huron lots everyday and would now use hourly ramps for the time being.

“I think the hourly rate is expensive, but the daily rate is reasonable,” he said.

Malmi added that he would also consider using a different daily lot or find a bus route he could use.

“It’s a great inconvenience,” he said.

Sam Wilbur, a journalism student and parking attendant, said at least 15 drivers asked him on Wednesday where they could park once the Huron lots closed.

Wilbur said he told most drivers that they could park at Lot 37.

He said parking prices on campus aren’t outrageous, but instead are comparable to other prices around the metro.

“Parking in the Cities is expensive,” he said.

Jim Cloyd, a faculty member in the College of Pharmacy who pays for contract parking at the Washington Avenue Ramp, said he thought contract prices on campus were close to other downtown rates.

“It doesn’t strike me as an exorbitantly high increase,” he said.

Janna Seliger, an English sophomore, works as an attendant at Lot 37 twice a week.

She said she wasn’t concerned about the possibility of increased traffic at the lot if former Huron lot customers are directed her way, noting that events held nearby at Mariucci Arena or Bierman Field often rely on Lot 37 for parking and that room is always available.

Seliger added that she hoped the increased prices send a message.

“Hopefully, it convinces people to find another way to campus,” she said.

The increased price of bus passes didn’t bother Seliger, who said she uses her U-Pass often.

“(The increase is) just $2,” she said, “and it’s well worth the cost.”

Parking attendants got a perk from the Huron lot closure Friday when invited to smash a parking booth.

“Please help us take it out by paying $1-a-swing to smash it to bits with a sledge hammer,” said an e-mail sent to parking staff. Proceeds from the demolition, about $40, will go to a local charity.