New 10-year parking plan will significantly impact commuters
With enrollment projected to increase by 3 percent each fall, Parking and Transportation Services’ 10-year parking plan will significantly impact student commuters.
In a blog posted on the PTS website March 29, the service outlined the first changes from the plan that will go into effect in fall 2016. Along with the increased parking rates, the 10-year plan will limit permit sales, discontinue semester permits and combine economy and economy plus parking.
The Board of Regents voted to approve the proposed parking rate increases in February.
“A 10-year plan absolutely makes sense when you consider the logistical implications,” now former Student Government Association President Shaun Theriot-Smith said. “What this plan demonstrates, though, is the potential for permit rates to drastically increase in the coming years.”
Beginning in the fall, PTS will begin selling a limited number of permits. Once permits are sold out, students will need to find alternative ways to get to and from campus or place themselves on a waiting list.
“I’d much rather them have a cap on parking permits,” broadcast journalism senior Kerri Barnes said. “It should never take someone 30 minutes to an hour to find a parking spot. Letting students know when permits are sold out will hopefully minimize the congestion in all the economy lots.”
Another change involves semester permits. There will no longer be an option for students to buy permits on a per-semester basis. Anyone who needs a permit for only one semester can purchase an annual permit and return it at the end of the semester for a prorated refund.
The final change PTS announced so far was combining economy and economy plus parking and allowing students with economy passes to park their vehicles closer to campus after 4 p.m. each day, a perk currently only reserved for economy plus.
PTS is also working to provide 24/7 parking to residents and incentives to encourage UH commuters to use alternative transportation in order to minimize the parking demand.
“Right now, it’s really hard to manage the oversell of the student parking facilities,” Browand said. “We have a group of residents that are parking here 24/7, so that space never becomes vacant, and we have commuters coming and going. It’s hard to determine what the oversell of parking should be.”
PTS hopes to phase in 24/7 resident parking over the next three years and covert 3,000 current parkers to alternative transportation such as car pool or METRO services over the next four years.
“I feel that students will appreciate the economics behind the decision once they see the justification,” Theriot-Smith said.
According to a YouTube video outlining PTS’s 10-year plan, an increase in permit prices was necessary to stay financially stable.
“We are an auxiliary service,” PTS director Bob Browand said. “What that means is we are self-supporting. We operate off of the fees we charge for our services.”
Funds that previously went toward maintenance, repair and improvements are instead being used to support daily operations while the condition of parking lots and streets is deteriorating.
And as enrollment rises, surface parking may be lost to new educational and support facilities, and the only way to meet future parking demand is by building garages.
Because PTS receives the majority of its funds through permit sales, garage parking rates will need to increase to support a large portion of the debt service, which is something the UH community may not understand right away.
“The increased rates are reflective of a price closer to the true value of providing parking services on campus,” Theriot-Smith said. “Our permit rates have been undervalued, generally, and Parking and Transportation Services has been overstretched in terms of budgeting capacity.”