Status quo for parking woes

By D. Shayne Christie
Arizona Daily Wildcat
September 9, 1996

Arizona Daily Wildcat

A campus policeman collects a parking fee from a student as part of an "experiment" with toll parking lots in 1956.


While most would agree parking is hard to come by and expensive at the UA, at least one person understands why.

Marlis Davis, director of Parking and Transportation Services, said the prices for on-campus parking have to be high because space is at a premium, and also because the garages have to pay for themselves.

Since the University of Arizona is boxed in on all sides by residential areas, outward expansion is limited, making space on campus costly, she said.

Davis said if people want to bring their vehicles to campus and they need a place to park, they have to pay the price to maintain those facilities, as well as the cost for new construction.

"We are mandated to support alternative transportation," she said. "We want people to get out of their cars."

She said PTS is in support of alternative transportation and that individual parking creates a burden on campus, pollutes the air and congests the roads.

"It's appropriate that the parkers take some responsibility," Davis said.

The UA has 9,200 permit spaces available to 50,000 UA students, faculty and staff. The average price for a permit space is about $243. There are 3.8 students per space, but since the UA's parking system is available to staff and students, there are 5.4 persons per each available parking space.

"Seventy percent of our revenue comes from some type of permit sale," Davis said, adding that she thinks UA's prices for permit parking are in line with other schools.

The Wildcat contacted Pacific 10 Conference schools for information on parking rates, population and number of spaces.

The only Pac-10 school with higher demand for spaces, the University of Oregon, has 5.7 students per space available, but the price for parking at Oregon is $84 a year.

UA ranks fourth highest in parking rates among Pac-10 schools. University of California-Berkeley, University of California-Los Angeles and the University of Washington charge $456, $438, and $378 a year, respectively. All the schools have a lower space-per-person ratio than the UA.

"I really think our permit prices are in line," said Davis. "We hardly do anything without checking with other schools."

Davis said she believes that a lot of Pac-10 schools operate their parking services as auxiliaries like the UA, and she said she had heard of few systems that receive state funding.

Compared with other Arizona schools, UA is the most expensive.

Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff has roughly 20,000 students and 9,098 spaces available, with the average permit costing $45.

Arizona State University in Tempe, which has 39,500 students on the main campus, charges from $45 to $105 and has 18,950 spaces.

Davis said ASU has a lot more land available to it than the UA, and because the UA is landlocked, parking prices on campus are high.

The UA only has 9,200 permit spaces of the 12,000 required to operate a "viable" parking system, Davis said.

Davis also made reference to a "benchmark" study done on parking systems at different universities around the nation, but Davis would not allow the Wildcat to see the study because the information was "confidential," she said.

PTS operates as an auxiliary to the UA, and does not make a profit, Davis said. Since auxiliaries have to break even, prices for parking reflect the amount of revenue needed to keep PTS in the black, she said.

Davis said that PTS is required to keep a $400,000 surplus for emergencies.

Kathy Sherrill, business manager for PTS, said the department had a $5 million budget for the 1995-96 fiscal year.

Sherrill said $2.6 million was generated by permit sales, and another $1.3 million came from visitor and daily parking fees, parking meters and special events parking.

Sherrill said $1.7 million was paid out to PTS employees in wages and benefits, and another $1.4 million was spent to support alternative transportation like the Cat Tran shuttle and "U-Pass" Sun Tran subsidies. In addition, $1.2 million was spent for debt service payments for parking structures, not including the Main Gate Garage, and other outflows for operations and improvement of existing parking facilities in the amount of $900,000 last fiscal year.

Sherrill said the new Main Gate Garage only raised $217,000 the first year, compared to the $600,000 it costs annually to pay the debt service. Sherrill said the difference will have to be made up by the UA.

Davis added that the Main Gate structure will generate more revenue as soon as construction of a hotel and retail shops is finished in the area.

In addition, Sherrill said all auxiliaries have to pay an "administration service charge" of $150,000 a year to the UA.

Davis said she has been with PTS for 12 years. Starting as a permit supervisor, she worked her way up to her current position, which pays $62,000 annually.

"I've probably been a supervisor in every section in this department," she said.

Services have increased over the past few years, and there are several new plans to expand PTS's services this year, Davis said.

Other new services will include added shuttle service, for a total of 10 shuttles, and plans to make it possible to sign up for permits via telephone, Davis said.

Prices have also increased within the past year, according to Parking and Transportation's own newsletter, Park-n-News.

Prices for the Main Gate Garage permit went up by $50, disabled permits went up $35, and the Cherry and Park Avenue garages, as well as the price for the Superpass, increased by $25.

She said within the next few years, prices for all garage parking will stabilize at around $400.

Davis said price increases are necessary to cover costs.

Davis pointed out that PTS spent $300,000 in 1987 for the construction of the Second Street Parking Garage, the Park Avenue Garage and Cherry Avenue Garage. It has also invested $1.4 million over the past year in the Cat Tran shuttle program and UA bus pass subsidies.

"Getting additional parking is our number one goal," she said. "Also, to try to alter peoples behaviors to take alternative transportation one or two times a week, or all the time."

Davis also said ideally most parking would be somewhere off-campus with shuttle service to the campus.

"A lot of universities have off-campus parking with shuttle service," she said.

Davis also said because the UA is landlocked, new parking spaces are hard to come by.

"We have nowhere to go but up," she said of the UA's plans for new parking.

"Until we have more space to work with, all low cost parking will be off campus."

PTS has plans to build two new parking structures, with capacity between 1,000 and 1,300, within the next few years, she said.

"I would hope we would see some movement within the next year," she said of the plans in the works for new parking structures.

One will be located near North Fremont Avenue and East Sixth Street, and the other will be a public and private venture on North Tyndall Avenue somewhere between East Fifth Street and East University Boulevard.

Davis said the new structures will get PTS closer to their goal of 12,000 permit spaces.