Parking squeeze puts rates on the rise for sixth year

Michelle Moriarity

Higher prices and less convenience will characterize parking on campus for the next couple years.
Major University projects, such as the Gateway Center construction and a proposed women’s hockey arena, will temporarily eliminate an estimated 600 parking spots. Consequently, for the sixth consecutive year, University parking officials raised campus parking rates, a move they said will help finance new facilities to deal with the growing demand for parking.
Cari Hatcher, public relations representative for Parking and Transportation Services, said it will take about a year and a half before proposed parking facilities meet the demand.
Dennis Miller, assistant director of accounting and finance for Parking and Transportation Services, said no alternative for increasing revenue exists.
“(These projects) increase my costs,” Miller said. “I don’t have any choice.”
Each year transit officials offer new justification for the rate increases. Last year, parking officials cited continuance of Route 52 buses. In 1996, officials said they needed the funds to repair the crumbling East River Road parking ramp.
Hatcher said parking and transportation officials created a capital plan to outline their projects for the next two years. Additional revenue from parking will help finance parking facilities for the Gateway Center and the women’s hockey arena.
However, these facilities will not compensate for those that preceded them. The proposed Gateway garage will have 300 parking spaces, but the parking lot it replaced had a capacity of 900.
Hatcher said transit officials have considered several options to compensate for this crunch. One idea calls for construction of a one-level deck over the Hawkeye and Gopher commuter lots, located in the Huron Boulevard Parking Complex.
Despite these plans, however, parking spaces will still be at a premium for the next few years.
Miller said he would like to see more lots and ramps on campus, because they are cheaper to build than underground parking facilities.
Parking and Transportation officials consulted with several University and local organizations, such as the Minnesota Student Association, the University Senate and the Teamsters Local 320, while contemplating next year’s rate increases.
Fred Morrison, a University Law School professor and chairman of the University Senate’s Finance and Planning Committee, said the increase in parking rates was necessary.
“The real issue is how fast are we going to pay for the improvements,” Morrison said.
With the additional revenue, parking officials can fund each project as it comes along instead of creating a larger fund for all projects, Morrison said.
“We would all prefer to have lower parking rates,” Morrison said, “but it is not a reality.”
MSA President Jigar Madia, who helped form the association’s Student Transportation Advisory Council, disagreed.
“(The administration) has all these projects to fund and no one to fund them,” Madia said. “They can’t continue coming to students for money.”
Officials must put more thought into project funding and seek alternative money sources, Madia said, such as the Alumni Association and the men’s athletics department.
Sue Mauren, secretary-treasurer of the Teamsters Local 320, said University union workers also find the increased rates unfavorable.
“Our position was that there should not be an increase,” Mauren said. “I think they should provide workers with increases in their salaries that would cover those parking rates.”
Although students have mixed reactions toward the changes, most agree on one point — parking rates should definitely be lower.
“They’re fine for people coming to campus once in awhile,” Maibauer said. “But if you pay for it every day, it’s too expensive.”
Heather Larson, a Carlson School of Management senior, argued that high rates are a necessary evil.
“The expense is better than parking way out,” said Larson, “but considering the number of students here, it’s a lot of money.”
Miller is optimistic about the future of parking on campus.
“I suspect rates will level off,” Miller said. “Lower parking rates would be nice, but I don’t think it’s realistic.”