The University Record, December 20, 1999

Short-term parking solutions reviewed at Senate Assembly

By Theresa Maddix

“We in Parking realize we have a very serious parking crunch on Central Campus,” Patrick Cunningham, director of Parking and Transportation Services, reported to the Dec. 13 Senate Assembly meeting.

Cunningham and Henry D. Baier, associate vice president for business operations, attended the meeting to address emergency, short-term solutions for the winter parking problem.

“We’ve added more than 600 spaces to the parking system in the last year,” Baier said. “That includes 208 we added to Central Campus in November.”

However, he added, “with the exception of the 208 spaces put back into the system this November, we haven’t seen any significant increase in parking spaces over the past 25 years.”

In tackling parking issues, Parking and Transportation Services is focusing on fairness and equity, Baier noted. The challenge is a complex one when attempting to balance the competing demands of faculty, staff, students and visitors.

A major part of the problem, Baier feels, is the scarcity of land. “As part of the Master Plan we’re really taking a hard look at what land is available and how we use land. Do we use land for more parking, or do we use some land for new academic or research facilities?”

To find the 208 new Central Campus area parking spaces, Cunningham, Baier and the Parking staff drove through all of the structures looking for additional areas for Blue permit parking. Seventy-eight of the spaces came from new construction on the upper deck of the Fletcher Street Structure. The remaining spaces are the result of reassigning Department of Public Safety and University vehicle spots, and restriping and realigning existing spots.

“My number one priority,” Cunningham said, “is to secure more parking for Central Campus.”

Faculty and staff members, Cunningham said, have been his chief resource for parking solution ideas. Ideas he highlighted at the meeting were:

  • Continue to build awareness of alternatives. Parking and Transportation Services continues to work to get the word out about the emergency taxi service, car-pooling, the Ann Arbor Transit Authority bus service and remote lots.

  • Move fleet vehicles to remote lots. Cunningham has set up a system in which fleet vehicle drivers now park free in remote lots and take a bus to campus where they pick up their fleet vehicle.

  • Develop an in/out monitoring system. Technology will soon provide a system that can monitor whether vehicles are University vehicles, service vehicles or Blue permit holders, a necessary prerequisite to a gated, monitoring system.

  • Eliminate Gold parking. While Parking Services doesn’t have a plan for eliminating Gold permit parking, the number of available permits is frozen at the current level. Cunningham hopes to make Gold permit parking unnecessary within the next couple of years.

  • Don’t sell blue permits to students. Students are not able to purchase Blue or Gold permits.

  • Lease city spaces. With many city structures undergoing renovation, the city is in as large a parking bind as the University. (At their Dec. 17 meeting, the Regents authorized the University to enter into an agreement with the city to jointly develop and operate the Forest Avenue Structure. Total capacity of the new structure, scheduled to be completed on or before June 30, 2001, will be 867 vehicles, with 277 spaces designated for University use.)

  • Utilize visitor spaces during peak hours. This is being considered, the idea being that faculty and staff may be able to use visitor spots 10 a.m.-3 p.m.

  • Use a valet system. After reviewing what is required for a valet system, it is unlikely one will be put into place because of the high costs involved, for both the service itself and liability.

    Additional suggestions the Assembly offered include:

  • Employ a “Denver Boot” on illegally parked vehicles. This lock on the offender’s vehicle would be a large deterrent but in the short term would not free the parking space. Cunningham reported that illegal parking has lessened since fines have gone up.

  • Enforce permit use restrictions. The Department of Public Safety (DPS) is stepping up its efforts to rout out ineligible parkers who have obtained a permit illegally. DPS found six offenders in the past month by asking parkers to show their identification.

  • Add more roving monitors. Parking Services has just added an additional monitor and is considering adding more.

    While Assembly members’ comments focused on alleviating the current parking problems by removing illegal parkers, Baier emphasized that illegal parkers are “still a very small part of the problem.” To illustrate what he feels is a greater problem, he cited a recent survey in which 50 percent of the respondents “say under no circumstances will they use public transportation.”

    Cunningham spoke briefly about long-term solutions. He feels the problem will be solved, although at high expense, by building additional structures. “My goal,” he said, “is to have at least another 1,000 to 1,500 spaces in the system in the next two-to-three years.”