The University Record, November 22, 1999


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Reader suggests parking policy changes

A recent article (“U-M looking for solutions to Central Campus parking crunch,” Nov. 15) describes approaches to alleviating parking difficulties on Central Campus. The solutions proposed—sharing the Forest Street parking structure, building a new parking structure near Central Campus—may be needed, but should only be used after flawed policies on parking charges and transit are remedied.

Providing a spot in a parking structure costs the University approximately $1,200 per year in maintenance and amortized construction costs, excluding land costs. The purchaser of a pass costing $430 annually thus receives an approximate $770 subsidy, which includes a $95 mandated contribution on the part of the driver’s unit. This subsidy accrues to drivers only and hence discourages transportation alternatives such as walking, cycling, ride-sharing or public transit. Encouragement of these alternatives in the face of such massive subsidy can never amount to more than mere lip service.

Before construction of any new parking capacity, the University should implement the following policies:

1. Parking is a self-supporting endeavor of the University, and is not to be subsidized from general sources. The University of Michigan is in fact unusual among its peer institutions in policy mandating that the units subsidize the cost of their employees’ parking.

2. Parking charges are adjusted to reflect the true cost of parking provision, including land costs. (Parkers in structures would tend to pay more in structure costs and less in land costs than parkers in surface lots).

3. Parking is paid for on a daily, rather than an annual basis, a policy made feasible by any number of electronic payment devices. When parking is purchased annually, all incentive to make use of transportation alternatives—even occasionally—evaporates. In contrast, daily payment facilitates a breaking of monolithic annual decisions on how to park into a number of daily decisions that people can vary in response to factors such as schedules, load-carrying requirements or weather.

4. City and campus transit services are integrated. The concept of an AATA [city bus system] that can bring people to our campuses and a campus bus system to shuttle them between campuses is inherently flawed. Transit passengers need seamless mobility between city and campus, something that transfers between adjoining systems can never provide.

At stake is the quality of our cherished campus environment. As long as we fail to consider pricing and transit policy before capacity expansion, we will be doomed to yield up more and more of that territory to the automobile, and to increase the burdens we place on the capacity of the central Ann Arbor street network. Ultimately this threatens the prime reason for still having physical campuses in a cyberspace age: easy, face-to-face interaction in an inviting, pedestrian-friendly environment.

Jonathan Levine, associate professor, Urban and Regional Planning Program, A. Alfred Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning