New on-campus housing, lots ease parking strain

by Dan Haugen

As the University continues to wrestle with its commuter-campus identity, demand for on-campus parking is less strong than it has been for several years, according to Parking and Transportation Services.

For the first time ever, there are no waiting lists for some faculty parking facilities, said Lori Ann Vicich, communications manager for Parking and Transportation Services. As a result, the department has added 150 spaces to the student parking lottery for spring semester, bringing the total number to be raffled off to approximately 1,200.

More than 3,000 students have registered for the lottery, which ends today. While that’s twice the number who entered the last lottery, Vicich said the increase is not an accurate measure of demand because it can be credited to an e-mail sent to remind students of the lottery. The office had never previously sent out such a reminder.

“Parking demand on campus, in general, is down,” Vicich said.

Reasons for the relaxed demand can be contributed to a variety of factors, she said.

New housing options have cropped up on and near campus in the past several years, which means fewer students are driving to and from school. In a report to the Board of Regents last year, then-University President Mark Yudof said the number of beds on or near campus doubled between 1991 and 2001.

For those who do commute, public transportation has become a more popular choice. Bus ridership to and from campus has soared since the U-Pass program was introduced in 2000. More than 14,000 bus passes have been sold this semester.

And added to that, Vicich said, “There’s more parking on campus than there’s ever been before.”

The East River Road Garage, which opened early this year, created 1,900 new spaces. Before that, the Gortner Avenue Parking Ramp in St. Paul created 600 new spaces in 2000.

Still, those numbers are of little comfort to the 1,800-plus students who will be shut out of a permanent parking space this spring.

Sophomore Jen Grady said she’ll have to look for a new job if she can’t keep her car on campus.

“I don’t like the fact that they don’t base it on seniority,” she said. “As a sophomore, I should have dibs over freshmen.”

Dan Haugen welcomes comments at [email protected]