The University Record, September 25, 2000

Parking problems not solved, but progress is ‘meaningful’

By Jane R. Elgass

Looking at campus parking availability problems in a new way—from the point of view of a total transportation system that involves U-M commuter and AATA bus transportation and special shuttles, creation of more spaces, and incentives to encourage drivers to use vanpools and “offsite” (away from main campus areas) parking—is beginning to have very positive results, the Regents were told at their meeting last week by Robert Kasdin, executive vice president and chief financial officer.

Kasdin highlighted intense efforts to address the University’s most perennial problem—“We’ll always need 1,000 more spaces”—efforts that began 18–24 months ago and accelerated over the past year. He also praised the efforts of the Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs for bringing problems into focus by conducting surveys.

By 2002, the University will have added 2,611 parking spaces in its overall system, including the Medical Center area. Numbers already have increased by 1,307 spaces since 1998.

“The problem is not solved, but we have taken significant steps and made meaningful progress,” Kasdin said.

Parking is a very serious issue for faculty and staff, “more than a ‘quality-of-life’ issue. It could become a recruitment and retention problem if it is not addressed,” he stated.

One of the first steps was combining the University’s Parking Services and Transporation Services, permitting the “transit system” approach. The unit is headed by Patrick Cunningham.

Among new or “redesigned” spaces up-and-running or on the list for the immediate future:

  • Demolition of two buildings on Zina Pitcher to make way for a new medical research facility will permit the use of that area for parking (209 spaces) for about one year.

  • A new surface lot on Fuller Road (300 spaces), north of a Fuller-Mitchell parking lot, will open Sept. 25.

  • The University has entered an agreement with the city to use the Fuller Pool lot (209 spaces) during the academic year (September–April) when the pool is closed and the University’s needs are the greatest.

  • The existing Glazier Way Commuter Lot has also been enlarged and paved, adding another 208 spaces of surface parking. Buses serve this lot every 10 minutes.

  • The University and city will share the new Forest Avenue Structure, with the University gaining 277 spaces there when completed in July 2001.

  • The Palmer Drive site that is being developed for life sciences-related activities and the Walgreen Drama Center will have 1,027 spaces, anticipated to open in February 2002.

  • Redoing the top level of the Fletcher Street Structure added 82 spaces.

  • The underutilization of the top floor of the Taubman Structure by patients and visitors resulted in a lottery for 191 spaces for faculty and staff.

    Studies conducted by Cunningham, director of Parking and Transportation Services, and Henry Baier, associate vice president for facilities and operations, showed “inefficient use of existing floor prints,” Kasdin explained. This resulted in re-striping and removal of “snow spaces,” with some existing parking areas on Central Campus increasing by 126 spaces.

    Through these efforts, the parking areas near Crisler Arena added 130 spaces. The University also created a lot at Keech and Main, just north of Michigan Stadium, in 1998, which yielded 175 commuter spaces.

    The University has undertaken stronger enforcement of parking in the structures through the use of monitors who will deny entry to those not possessing the proper permit. “Tickets don’t work,” Kasdin said. “We need to prevent entry.” The monitors are on duty 7–11 a.m., the heaviest “entry” hours during the day.

    “Buses also are an important part of our strategy as we develop new spaces on the periphery of campus,” Kasdin noted, adding that any increase in numbers using vanpools and buses “is a victory.”

    Additional vanpools are being encouraged by a pilot test making them free. Previously, riders had to pay $65 per month. The University supplies the van and covers the cost of maintenance and fuel. The vans have the only specifically assigned spaces on campus. Vanpools are established when there are at least 10 people interested who are coming in from the same general location. Five already exist and two more be formed soon. Contact Transportation Services, (734) 764-3427, for more information about vanpools..

    U-M personnel (faculty, students and staff) can ride free on AATA buses from a lot on South State Street, one on Green Road and another AATA Park-and-Ride lot. Faculty and staff also are given free passes to ride all the way in on AATA buses should they choose that approach (2,017 passes were issued over the past year). The State Street lot already is showing signs of overflow, and may be expanded to accommodate the increased demand.

    AATA logged more than 53,000 rides for the University in August, with approximately 1,150 faculty, staff and students riding their buses each workday. The University commuter buses provide more than four million rides each year—approximately 15,000 rides each day during the academic year. Students are the heaviest users of the U-M buses.

    U-M commuter buses now run every 10 minutes, instead of 15 minutes, all year.

    Shuttle services, particularly in the hospitals area, have been increased.

    One of the most acute problems faced by faculty and staff are emergencies that require them to leave the office during the day or come in later than usual. To meet this need, a blue permit “crunch” lot was created last winter at Elbel Field. It has been moved across the street this year. Faculty and staff who use the “crunch” lot—called a “life-saver” by Kasdin—receive a free taxi ride to their campus location and back to the lot. The service is available 9:45 a.m.–3 p.m. weekdays.

    The University also provides an emergency “free ride home” for faculty and staff to get to their parking lot or home when University buses are not running. “We recognize childe care or family care needs may require a quick response,” Kasdin said, “and we do not want that to be an obstacle to mass transportation alternatives. Vanpools also may use the emergency ride service.

    The University is exploring the use of automatic vehicle identification systems for access control, already used by many states on toll roads and bridges. A device inside the car lets the “gatekeeper” know it’s OK to let the vehicle pass through.

    “It’s foolish to even suggest victory,” Kasdin concluded, “but we have made significant progress.”