ASUA denounces parking plan
ASUA took a hard-line stance against the City of Tucson's decision to sell permits for previously free campus-area parking spaces.
At Tuesday's Associated Students meeting, President Tara Taylor asked senators and audience members to contact city officials and protest Tucson's plan to sell the permits.
"The people need a vote on this," Taylor said. "Your letters and your phone calls will help."
ASUA officials also sent a letter Tuesday to Tucson Mayor George Miller requesting a public hearing on the matter.
"The reason why we drafted this letter is because this is just unjust," Taylor said. "The intention of the letter is to put pressure on elected officials."
Taylor said the Tucson City Council must vote to approve the plan if enough opposition is voiced during such a hearing.
"We hope that other people will write to Mayor Miller and the City Council," she added.
Ryan Rosensteel, Associated Students admin-istrative vice president, said he is concerned with informing students about the impending city parking takeover.
"I want the students to understand what's happening," Rosensteel. "We know generally that students are opposed to this."
The ASUA letter, signed by Rosensteel, Taylor and Executive Vice President Cisco Aguilar, states that the city's plan to sell parking permits for 608 previously free parking spots would "impact our university community negatively."
Starting Feb. 1, the city will sell permits that cost between $300 and $800, depending upon their proximity to central campus and the option of football and basketball parking.
Chris Leighton, Tucson's parking program coordinator, said ASUA and the University of Arizona's chances of halting the city's plans are slim.
"I think it's highly doubtful," Leighton said, but "I never say never - I've worked in government for too long."
Rosensteel was hopeful that city officials would weigh in students' concerns.
"It's hard to say who they will listen to, but this should have some effect," he said.
Marlis Davis, UA Parking and Transportation Services director, agreed with Leighton's predictions about the likelihood of stopping the city.
"I think we're sort of stuck with this for right now," Davis said. "We'll just have to live with it for a little while."
Rosensteel said he plans to conduct surveys in order to bring more student input to the matter.
"We think that students probably feel uninvolved in this," Rosensteel said. "There's too many times that students don't understand what's going on and don't get a chance to voice their opinions."
The city has planned an informational forum but has yet to determine a date or location, Leighton said.
He also said the UA has known since November 1996 about the city's plans and has been "stalling."
He added the UA has known the city was moving ahead with the plans since April 1997, despite the university's objections.
"We've known they've been talking about it, but they had talked about south of (East) Sixth (Street) and north of (East) Speedway (Boulevard)," Davis said.
City officials never mentioned coming to the center of campus, she said.
Leighton said he understood the position of those upset by the city's plan, since the change will disrupt some commuters' daily patterns.
"In the U.S. our car is our freedom - it's a tough freedom to lose," he said.
Affected areas include East First Street from North Mountain Avenue to North Campbell Avenue, East Second Street from North Park Avenue to North Olive Road near the Harvill building, and the stretch of Second from North Vine Avenue to Campbell.
North of campus, East Helen Street from Park to Campbell, and East Mabel Street from North Highland Avenue to Campbell will become permit areas, as will parking spaces lining the west side of University Medical Center. Small north-south streets between Helen and Mabel will also be hit.
The UA and the city conducted a joint study in 1996 that looked at reducing campus-area traffic and encouraging alternative transportation. The study recommended replacing on-campus parking with perimeter garages containing about 12,000 spaces.
"The university has said to ban (central-campus) parking - we think that's too drastic," Leighton said.
The UA does not yet have the study's rec-ommended 12,000 parking spaces and the university doesn't seem to be "stepping forward" with the money needed to fix the streets in question, he added.
But Davis said the city hasn't done its part to improve the situation.
"We've been asking for the streets to be given to us for 10 years," Davis said. "If they gave us the streets we would pay to fix them."
Still, Leighton said the city will use permit money to improve the streets, just as the UA requested.
"We are ultimately working toward their goal," he said, "So we don't understand their objections."
Although Tucson's parking plan conflicts with the traffic circulation study, Davis said she was willing to compromise.
Last spring, the university proposed to run the city's program for two years, selling permits for about $200 to $300 and giving all profits to Tucson, Davis said. Tucson City Manager Luis Gutierrez "turned it down flat," she added.
"I think they didn't want to be constrained by a two-year time limit," Davis said.
Michael Lafleur can be reached via e-mail at Michael.Lafleur@wildcat.arizona.edu.