Campus Searches for Parking Solutions
Sarah McQueen

parking-kaitlyn-luckow2.jpgAs more and more students become frustrated with the daily battle to find a parking spot on campus, the University and the Student Government Association have taken notice and are brainstorming ways to improve the situation.

Ryan Specht, the director of Student Life Issues, is working to create a Parking Advisory Board. The board would advise Bill Rowe, the director of Parking Services, on ideas and decisions concerning parking. Rowe would still work autonomously and make the final decisions, but the board would have the power to appeal his decisions to the Vice Chancellor of Business Affairs if they disagree with his choice.

“This is actually a massive step because this is the first time students are going to have any say on parking,” Specht said.

The board will consist of six students and two members of faculty and staff. The students will be selected from places such as SGA and the Residence Hall Association. The University Affairs Committee will be formally voting after spring break to implement the Parking Advisory Committee.

“One of the biggest things that SGA gets is comments about parking, questions about parking, concerns about parking,” Specht said. “So in order to create a forum where these concerns can be addressed in a meaningful and engaging way, we created the parking advisory board.”

Building a new parking structure in Lot T will be one of the first and most important things the board would discuss. There are currently five lots that students can purchase permits for, but two of those lots are split to accommodate faculty parking. There are also seven metered lots. Lot X, the largest of the metered lots, will soon be replaced with a new science building, which will reduce metered parking by 338 slots.

“Parking is okay, I think that having to pay at meters every time you want to drive is a bit frustrating, though,” said Taylor Borman, a communication major at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. “Having to always scramble for quarters is annoying.”

Borman stated that more parking would be a good thing, but she would rather use permits than pay a daily fee.

Costs for the structure are not yet known and will not be determined for another few weeks. It is estimated that parking slots in a structure cost about $15,000 to $20,000 to build each individual parking stall. For a paved lot, they run about $2,000 per stall. The cost of the structure would be covered through parking permits and meters. Though no exact figure will be known for a few weeks, it is very likely that the cost of parking permits will go up if the structure is built.

“The study in a couple weeks is going to give us hard numbers,” Specht said. “And when we have those hard numbers, we can have the hard conversations. At that point, we will have a whole lot of people engaged in these conversations.”

Lots E and R were also considered as spots for the structure, but they were rejected because of their potential as places for future academic buildings. The university has hired a team to test the ground in Lot T to make sure that it can support a structure. The structure will not be taller than the surrounding building, limiting it to four stories high.

“It’s a long ways to go. It is strictly a study at this time to determine the engineering feasibility and whether something will fit or work on that site and an attempt to put some cost to it,” said Carl Rasmussen, head of facility planning.

There is discussion over whether a parking structure should be the solution to the loss of parking in Lot X. The Campus Master Plan suggests eliminating freshmen parking, which would free up between 300 and 400 parking slots in Lots Q, P, and J.

The Campus Master Plan states, “Given the tradeoff between providing convenient surface parking and meeting other campus needs and goals, the campus has committed to the reduction of on-campus surface parking over time. The result of this progressive decision will open up land within the campus boundary for a higher and better use and offer opportunities to transform the character of the campus.”

While this addresses student parking, it does nothing to solve the issues of event parking for the Health Enhancement Center, the Noel Fine Arts Center or the Dreyfus University Center. It is also in question whether or not even the parking structure would offer sufficient student parking.

“With this capital project and its direct link to the pocketbooks of the students, this is going to be something that is in the top list of priorities as we go into the next year,” Specht said. “There is no way they are going to build that structure without having conversations with the students.”