Concerns over safety could lower student parking costs at U

The Student Senate is working with Parking and Transportation Services to reduce parking fees later at night to encourage more students to park in well-lit areas on campus.

Olivia Johnson

Late-night parking could be cheaper at the University of Minnesota after students raised concerns about safety.

The University Student Senate discussed a safety initiative at a meeting last Thursday. The initiative would push students to use campus lots instead of nearby neighborhood streets where parking is free but carries an increased risk of car theft or vandalism.

To encourage more on-campus parking, the group wants to reduce the price of parking after 6 p.m. for certain lots on campus, said Trish Palermo, student senate chair and political science junior.

“The reason why this whole thing came to be is because safety is obviously a concern for many students here at the University, especially women, in terms of walking home after dark,” she said. “I definitely want to say that that’s a very legitimate concern.”

She and a friend came up with the idea during a late night walk home from the library.

It was first formally discussed a few weeks ago and handed off to the senate’s campus-area safety task force, Palermo said. The task force approached University Parking and Transportation Services workers, who were immediately supportive of the idea, she said.

“When we started working with them, they said people had come and asked for it before … they are very concerned with student safety as well,” said Chandler Peterson, economics junior and co-chair of the task force.

Ross Allanson, the University’s PTS director, said he was approached by the senate at the end of September.

“The Student Senate’s initial request … was for free parking at night,” he said. “We hear the desire for free parking often, but being in a metropolitan area, it’s not a realistic request.”

Allanson said parking fees go toward the free buses on campus and operating the parking facilities, so they compromised on a discount.

“We were trying to figure out a way where we could create a reduced parking plan that doesn’t have to involve a contract [and] doesn’t have to involve public transportation,” Palermo said. “Rather, something that students could utilize, even if they don’t need it as frequently.”

Existing campus safety measures — such as 624-WALK or the public transit U-Pass — aren’t conducive for all students, especially those who drive, she said.

The move to boost safety is not a response to a campus crime spike, she said, but instead is for students who stay late to be safe when they walk to their cars at night.

To be enacted, Allanson said the change would need to be approved as part of the University’s fiscal year 2018 budget.

“This is not a solution for everyone,” Palermo said. “However, this is definitely a step in the right direction in terms of offering more safe options for students.”