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Parking on campus is about to change dramatically
By Thomas Becher
May 9, 1997
Parking on campus is about to change forever.
Like at any other university, UConn faculty, staff, students and visitors try to cram a multitude of cars in a limited amount of parking spaces. In fact, every day more than 25,000 registered vehicles vie for 8,700 spots. Fortunately, not everyone comes to campus at the same time.
And now some of those spaces will be lost in the short term as construction blossoms in Storrs and the campus begins the 20-year transformation to a pedestrian-only central core aimed at fostering a sense of community and personal interaction.
By January, a new, 1,100-space parking garage will be completed, easing some of that crunch. But as that and other UConn 2000 projects are built, more lots will be closed, forcing employees to look elsewhere to park their cars.
To help manage those constraints, University parking officials are implementing dramatic changes every employee should know about. Among them: a lottery for spaces in the center of campus, parking fees for some faculty and staff lots, and additional shuttle buses to bring workers to their offices from outlying lots.
Take heart, though. Few college campuses of this size offer convenient free parking to employees. At UConn free parking will always be available for employees, either at designated lots or in any student lot, just a short walk or bus ride from the center of campus.
Shuttle buses will run through the center of campus all day long from major buildings to outer-edge parking lots.
The new fees - how much you will pay has yet to be determined - will help pay for the parking system, including enforcement, a comprehensive shuttle bus network, and the capital and operating costs of a second parking garage and new surface lots to replace spaces lost due to construction.
In this era of budgetary constraint, it's difficult to find money from the University's operating budget to pay for parking because parking is not part of the University's core mission, said Bill Barrett, director of transportation and parking services.
"We can no longer subsidize parking," said Dale Dreyfuss, vice chancellor for business and administration. "It's a service system that has to be paid somehow."
Another driving factor is the University's strategic plan and subsequent master plan, which call for reducing conflicts between vehicles and pedestrians and limiting the number of vehicles traveling into the center of campus and competing for spaces.
Changes in stages
Already, about 80 faculty and staff with reserved parking spots pay $400 a year for the privilege. Identical bills went to the 32 people who park behind Budds Building.
Beginning this fall, 388 spaces in the center of campus between Hillside Road, Route 195, Gilbert Road and Glenbrook Road will only be available for employees who pay an annual fee for permits.
A lottery is to be announced in the next week to assign these prime spots. Watch your mail for details. (For more on the lottery, see below). Those spaces won't be reserved, but employees with permits may park in any available space in the restricted area on a first-come, first-served basis.
Those areas are: Babbidge Road, Mansfield Road, Manchester Lot, Hall Dorm, Whitney Road, Koons Hall, Storrs Hall, Oak Lane, Admissions Lot, Whitney Road Extension, Grad/Dodd Lot, Wilbur Cross, Jorgensen Auditorium, Student Union, and any other parking area within the perimeter.
The only other available parking in the center core of campus will be for state HP plates or placards and service vehicles. Visitor metered parking will remain at the Psychology lot, Whetten Center and the Co-op. Parking passes for maintenance and media will no longer be honored in the center of campus.
"We will strictly enforce these spaces," Barrett said. "Of course, we will be monitoring the success of this program and additional information will be distributed in the fall on future plans for parking and transportation."
Then, in January, the first $10 million parking garage will open on the current Lot 9, adjacent to the ROTC Hangar. While 274 spaces in Lot 9 will be lost due to its construction beginning this summer, the garage will eventually accommodate 1,100 spaces on three levels. Some of those new spots will be allocated for yearly permits, while others will be hourly spots open to anyone. Hourly fees have not been finalized.
Also in January, fees will be implemented to park in some lots outside the center core. Those areas have not yet been specified.
"It would be unfair if some employees near the center of campus have to pay and others don't," Dreyfuss said. "We want to avoid complaints that some won't have to pay for parking just because of where they work."
By January 1999, a second garage, its location to be determined, is scheduled to open. Since UConn 2000 pays for only one garage, it's important to generate enough money to build a second one, Dreyfuss said.
"We probably wouldn't be talking about any garage without UConn 2000," he said.
Lessons from Kentucky?
The University of Kentucky, for instance, recently installed a five-year plan to raise parking fees to pay for a new parking garage and other amenities, included gated lots, new buses, and lot resurfacing and repainting.
Free parking on the Lexington campus clearly was impossible, said Sandy Gary, associate director of parking at the University of Kentucky.
"There are still a few campuses that have free parking, but realistically, I honestly don't see how they can do it," Gary said. "It's very costly, especially with a bus system."
It wasn't easy to raise fees at Kentucky, she said. They range from $2 a month for perimeter lots to $16 a month for parking spaces near the center of campus in lots where any employee can park.
"You're probably going to have a lot of objection, but the amount of reaction you will get will be in direct proportion to parking availability," Gary said. "What happened here was that people felt that they were being overcharged. But each year we've increased the fees, the static we received has reduced. That's because we're offering something in return."
The Kentucky staff helped convince employees of the need for fee increases through a series of public forums on campus that explained that the money will be used for parking improvements.
There were some unintentional benefits, too.
"A lot of our employees have become parking sheriffs," Gary said. "They are calling to complain about parking violators, they are getting more involved. Paying fees gave them a stake. Now we're seeing an increased sense of community."
Parking consultant Barbara Chance, who is working with UConn to implement the master plan, also said free parking for employees is a thing of the past virtually anywhere.
"The campus must understand that parking and transportation is not funded through the general budget," said Chance, of Chance Management Advisors Inc. of Philadelphia. "In many places, legislatures or boards of trustees have said they would not use general or education funds for parking. They see parking as a need to be self-sufficient."
At UConn, she added, "You're just late in the process for having that happen."
Chance said fees will ultimately help improve parking on campus.
"The idea is trying to replace those small lots with a parking garage is to have a system to make it easier for folks to maneuver," she said. "The good news is that you still have sites available close to the heart of campus to put garages on."
Parking Q & A:
I park in Lot 9 now.
Where do I move while the new parking garage is built?
What lots will be
closed by this fall?
How will spots in the
center of campus be assigned?
How much will permits
How will the shuttle
bus system work?
Will there be space for
faculty to unload teaching materials?
Will I need a permit to
park near my building in the evenings?
Why do employees need
to pay for parking?