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The Minnesota Daily

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Episode 125: The parking puzzle

New reporters Maya and Rachel share the campus community’s perspectives on parking.

RACHEL HOPPE: Hi everyone, I’m Rachel Hoppe.

MAYA ATHERLY-LARSEN: And I’m Maya Atherly-Larsen. We’re the new reporters at the Minnesota Daily and you’re listening to In The Know, a podcast dedicated to the University of Minnesota.

HOPPE: In today’s episode, we’re discussing a topic that hits close to home for many college students and staff—parking on a college campus. Whether you’re a student running to catch your morning class or a faculty member juggling meetings and lectures, the battle for a parking spot is an all too familiar challenge. So grab your parking pass and get your change ready for the meter!

ATHERLY-LARSEN: The U boasts several free transportation options for students, including 3 different campus connector shuttles, metro transit bus routes, the light rail and various rentable bikes and scooters scattered throughout campus. However, there are still a lot of drivers on campus. In 2022, about 41% of students and staff drove alone, which means finding parking on and near campus can be a challenge. Jessie, a student driver, shares how much it is for her at the Oak Street ramp.

JESSIE: It’s pretty expensive, like compared to other people I’ve talked to that go to other colleges that the $400 a semester is like $400 a year for them. So, it’s expensive, but I mean, I think it’s worth it for my car.

HOPPE: The monthly rate to park on campus varies based on the type of parking facility. It costs $79 a month to park in an uncovered parking lot full-time, whereas in a covered ramp or garage, university students and faculty pay up to $145 a month. That said, those without parking contracts can pay a daily rate of $15, which can add up quickly. Another student, Alexandra Hipple, shares her opinion using university parking without a contract. 

ALEXANDRA HIPPLE: The parking garages, I feel like they’re a little overpriced, personally because, I mean, $15 is a lot of money, I feel like, to park my car. And then for parking passes in general, I feel like those are just very overpriced.

ATHERLY-LARSEN: In addition to parking ramps, there are various spots for metered street parking whether that be in Stadium Village, Dinkytown, or elsewhere. Matthew Hadley, a cultural studies and comparative literature senior lecturer, discusses his experiences with parking in the University area.

MATTHEW HADLEY: For years, what I would do is give myself about 20 minutes to drive around Dinkytown to look for a spot. And every single, I started every single day being anxious about getting to class on time and finding a spot to park and with all of the construction that’s happening there now with these massive student housing complexes going up, it’s just getting worse.

HOPPE: Hadley’s anxiety about parking on campus is a common sentiment. Hipple describes her own struggles with finding parking at the U.

HIPPLE: Since I did not buy a parking pass this year because they are in high demand, I drive around frantically every morning looking for a garage that has space available for public parking and if there aren’t any spaces available, then I just keep driving to find a parking lot.

ATHERLY-LARSEN: Minneapolis parking officers don’t discriminate either, issuing parking tickets to both students and staff. These tickets can be frustrating and costly for many.

HADLEY: Yeah, I’ve had so many parking tickets. The police in Dinkytown really like to point out when you’re not parking legally. So I’ve been given tickets for being, you know, maybe six inches too close to your driveway, right, or most of the time it’s because I forget to pay the meter and I’m at a metered spot.

HOPPE: Managing time during the day to refill the parking meter is another challenge of street parking. Students and staff often have busy schedules that make it hard to return to their cars when their meter expires.

HADLEY: Part of the problem was I just didn’t have time between classes to run out and fill it. So I’d, there were days when I would just like cross my fingers and hope to get through the day and, and it, it always felt like, you know, a gift when I didn’t have a ticket and forgot to re-up my meter. But yeah, I’ve paid a fair number of parking tickets. To the point where I decided it made more sense to just pay for parking, you know, rather than risk it and potentially have to pay the $50 fine, right? 

HOPPE: While parking on campus can be challenging, the University offers some solutions for staff commuting. Faculty and staff can opt for a Metropass, which is a discounted transit pass that provides unlimited rides. However, this isn’t a viable option for all University staff.

HADLEY: I live in a part of town that is pretty restrictive in terms of public transportation. I think it would take me an hour to get to class, so I generally drive. This is the first time ever that I’ve been able to get contract parking, which I just got recently, and it’s fantastic, but it’s also really expensive.

ATHERLY-LARSEN: Staff that drive need to either street park or join a waiting list for a specific ramp, which can take months to get on. Staff also pay the same rates as students for on-campus parking. The Washington Avenue Ramp, for example, has a waiting list of 755 people and costs a little more than $110 per month.

HOPPE: So, I understand why there are a lot of people on the waitlist for certain spaces, but why are the prices so high?

ATHERLY-LARSEN: Right, so pricing can vary depending on the facility type, demand and location, but the department is self-supporting with no legislative funding, as stated by Parking and Transportation Services. That  means their income comes from parking revenue, which explains why it can seem a little pricey. They rely on that money from paid spots to update and construct new places to park. 

HADLEY: And, you know, a lot of it has to do with the construction that’s happening in Dinkytown. I’m sure that people who had, you know, previously parked in Stadium Village, pretty consistently, probably are struggling with that, too, because there are, you know, so many more buildings going up over there, too. So just the population of, you know, the Dinkytown area and other areas, yeah, definitely makes it harder.

ATHERLY-LARSEN: Costly parking contracts and tickets could also stem from the increase of the U’s student population. Finding solutions in response to the increased need for parking, while also constructing parking garages is complicated. 

HOPPE: As the University and city continue to grow, they’ve adopted a strategy of incorporating both parking ramps and garages to maximize space usage. Unfortunately, these parking structures can come with a price tag that is up to 20 times higher than that of surface lots, further increasing the financial strain on students. 

HADLEY: So I don’t think it’s, it’s not a good option for everyone. I can’t imagine, you know, students wanting to pay X amount of dollars a month to be able to park here. Ideally, I would take public transportation, which I’ve done in the past. The place that I live now, like I said, it’s not viable. 

ATHERLY-LARSEN: It becomes a balancing act, where some people may find affordable and convenient alternative transportation, others have to navigate the complex and often expensive world of campus parking. It’s a reminder that finding the right parking solution on a college campus can be a mixed bag. Sort of a “win some, lose some” situation, but nonetheless an important topic for students.

HOPPE: This episode was written by Rachel Hoppe and Maya Atherly-Larsen and produced by Kaylie Sirovy. As always, we appreciate you listening in and feel free to leave us an email at [email protected] with comments or questions. I’m Rachel.

ATHERLY-LARSEN: And I’m Maya, and this is In The Know.

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