Parking Services cuts staff shifts

by Bei Hu

University Parking and Transportation Services announced this week that, as a result of budget cuts, some campus parking ramps will no longer have booth attendants during late night and early morning hours.
The new staffing policy, effective July 1, will affect six parking ramps on the Twin Cities campus. The attendant shifts that will be eliminated vary from one location to another.
Dennis Miller, assistant director of finance at Parking and Transportation Services, said the new staffing policy is a cost-efficiency measure and in line with standard practice in the parking industry. He added that revenues generated by the ramps during late night and early morning hours usually cannot meet the costs of keeping booth attendants.
Victoria Nelson, an associate director at Parking and Transportation Services, said additional security measures will be put into effect at those locations. She, along with University Police, predict the changes will not produce substantial security hazards.
But Joy Rikala, University Police chief, said people who need to go to the ramps during late night and early morning hours should use the University’s escort service.
The University’s Parking Services have merged with Transit Services, which receive state funding. The recent cuts in public funding to the transit program led to a financial crunch within Parking and Transportation Services.
Nelson said the parking section has to help make up the difference in funding.
The new staffing arrangements will eliminate shifts equivalent to the workloads of 13 full-time employees. Nelson said payroll money will be reallocated to meet the services’ other costs, which includes stepping up security in the parking ramps.
The new staffing policy will require fewer shifts. “But people are not losing jobs,” Nelson said.
She added that Parking Services, which hired 165 new student employees last year, has not found enough students to fill positions at parking ramps.
The new staffing policy will enable Parking Services to rearrange shifts. Full-time employees will work during the daytime — especially in the morning — when they are more needed, and when student employees usually go to classes, Nelson said.
“It’s a win-win situation,” she added.
Nelson said security at the parking ramps will not suffer from the absence of booth attendants because the facilities are equipped with cameras. Those cameras, usually viewed by booth attendants, will be monitored in a central security room when the attendants are off-duty. Parking Services security staff members will also drive patrols through the ramps, Nelson said.
Parking Services recently added a full-time employee to its security staff, and University Police patrol the ramps.
“Whenever you eliminate a physical presence, there will always be some additional safety concerns,” Rikala said.
But she added that she does not foresee a crime surge in the parking ramps.
The ramps affected by the new policy are: the East River Road Ramp, the Oak Street Ramp, the Washington Avenue Ramp, the Fourth Street Ramp, the 19th Avenue Ramp, and the 21st Avenue Ramp.