Parking situation should improve

UH Parking and Transportation Services is working to keep up with parking demands as the University reached a record enrollment of 36,999 students for the Fall 2009 semester – a 2 percent increase from Fall 2008.

‘Parking is one of the top reasons I dread coming to school,’ nursing junior Marina Lozitsky said.’ ‘I’d rather take exams every day if it meant I’d have a reserved spot right next to class every day. I always plan to circle the lots (for) at least 10 minutes because I can only park in the economy sections.’ ‘

Fidel Ramirez, assistant director for Parking and Transportation Services, said 25,590 parking permits were sold this year, but only 12,702 total parking spots are available to students on the immediate campus, including both garage and satellite parking.

The issue is a shortage of spaces on the immediate campus, said former Student Government Association President Sam Dike, who worked directly with the administration on the issue.

‘We don’t have enough land to build more parking spaces, and even if we had more land, people would complain because they’d have to park farther and farther out,’ Dike said.

Parking spaces will also be eliminated along Scott Street for the MetroRail, which will connect the University to downtown sometime in 2012.

Director of Parking and Transportation Services Bob Browand said the most pressing issue is the permanent loss of 700 spaces as a result of the MetroRail expansion.

Work has started on a new stadium parking garage, which will provide 2,000-2,400 new parking spaces and should be completed by the September 2010.

Cost is another major issue in the parking debate; not only are the projects expensive, but funds come from a limited number of sources.

‘A lot of people don’t know it, but parking is what the state calls an auxiliary unit – an auxiliary unit does not qualify for any type of state funding,’ Browand said. ‘It has to stand solely on its own and operate off the fees it can charge the users of that service.’

Browand said the University parking program must rely on the funds charged for permits, visitor parking and enforcement of parking rules and regulations to pay for shuttles, the debt service, improvements and repairs, as well as salaries, supplies and permits.

‘The garages cost anywhere between $10,000 and $15,000 a space depending on construction methods,’ Browand said. ‘They’re a good four to five times more expensive than surface parking. And not only are they more expensive to build, but they’re also more expensive to maintain and operate.’

With the new stadium garage going up, the price of parking permit rates is expected to increase in the next couple of years. Browand said that each year rates rise anywhere from 5 to 9 percent.

‘With the new stadium garage being even bigger and the debt service being more, you can kind of figure for one garage you’re probably looking at about a 30 percent increase in permit rates to cover that debt service,’ Browand said.

Dike said a lot of people feel the only way to solve the parking problem is to provide more spaces, but even still, the demand for parking couldn’t keep up with campus growth. This calls for a comprehensive strategy involving other options besides immediate campus parking, like satellite lots and mass transit.

‘Satellite lots are not being utilized,’ Dike said. ‘If you’re circling the parking lot for 20 minutes and you can’t find a parking spot, wouldn’t it be more reasonable to park at the Energy Research Park which takes you less than 12 minutes to get there and to campus? That makes more sense to me and that’s why I park there.’

Ultimately, the administration hopes students will look to carpooling, using the Metro system and better utilization of off-campus lots to alleviate parking congestion on campus.

‘It is important to provide a multitude of options for students to choose from,’ Dike said. ‘Not everyone can use Metro, not everyone will carpool and not everyone will park in satellite parking, but the more people who have flexible schedules and use those options, the less pressure we have on the immediate campus for parking.’

‘The parking situation is going to get worse before it gets better-like exercise, you have to feel pain to get results.’

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