Fewer than 16,000 parking spots serve the 75,000 students, faculty and staff who make up the UT community, creating challenges for drivers and Parking and Transportation Services officials.
Every time a new building goes up on top of a parking lot, it leaves fewer spaces to accommodate needs and makes it harder for PTS to cover more than $14.5 million in expenses.
“If 75,000 people decided to come to campus today and said, ‘I’m going to hop in my car and no one’s going to ride in the car with me,’ we would have a big problem,” Jeri Baker, assistant director of PTS, said.
Eleana Galicia, an urban studies senior, parks in the Longhorn Lots on the periphery of campus near Interstate 35 and already sees a problem.
“You’re never going to find parking on campus,” Galicia said. “I really don’t think they have enough parking spaces for everyone.”
Baker said UT does have enough parking spaces, despite the fact that it sold 15,869 more permits than total spaces during fiscal year 2010-2011. UT sold 31,744 parking permits during the year, and the campus has 15,875 spaces.
“Last year there wasn’t a day when people who had a C permit didn’t have a place to park,” Baker said. “Not everyone comes to campus every day.”
Because commuters are on campus for such short times on different days of the week, PTS Services is able to sell more permits than spaces but regulates sales to make sure there isn’t a parking shortage, Baker said.
“I don’t look strictly at the number of spaces we have,” Baker said. “I look at what the utilization of those spaces are. The worst thing you can do is walk past a space and wonder why you can’t buy a permit for that space.”
Michelle Hodge, a Spanish and UTeach junior, said as long as she arrives early she has plenty of spots to choose from in the C lots, where she parks Monday, Wednesday and Friday. She said she would automatically go to the Longhorn Lots if the C lots were regularly full when she arrives, although she sees many people who don’t do this.
“I think a lot of people don’t want to go to the Longhorn Lots because of having to take the shuttle or make the long walk over to campus,” Hodge said. “I think a lot of people, if there is not parking in the C parking, will opt for street parking or drive around forever waiting for someone to come to their car and leave.”
The more parking passes PTS sells, the lower prices are, Baker said. The entity receives no funding from the University and is self-funded from the revenue it generates selling passes and issuing citations. Each year it estimates its expenses prices parking fees just high enough to break even, Baker said.
In the 2010-2011 fiscal year, the organization’s total revenue was almost $16.9 million. Garage parking revenue accounted for $9,763,119. Students, faculty and staff purchased 9,163 regular permits to park cars in garages during normal operating hours of the University. The University has 8,159 garage parking places available in its nine garages.
Surface parking accounted for $3,628,466 in total revenue during the same year. Students, faculty and staff purchased 13,139 permits that granted them daytime access to University regular car parking spaces. UT has 7,716 surface parking spaces.
Many permits are already priced in the hundreds of dollars.
“For a lot of students even the price of a C permit is a lot,” Galicia said.
The least expensive daytime car permit for students is the C permit, costing $110 per academic year. It was the most popular permit in the 2010-2011 fiscal year. PTS sold 5,361 C permits that year. The R permit, which allows students who live on campus to park in garages, costs $743 per year. In the same year, 1,739 students purchased R permits.
The least expensive daytime regular faculty/staff permit was the $138 A permit. PTS sold 4,555 A permits in the 2010-2011 fiscal year. The most expensive daytime permit for regular faculty/staff was the F surface lot permit, which cost $464 per year. Faculty and staffed purchased 1,780 F surface lot permits during the year.
Administrators and operators of the University paid the highest for parking in the fiscal year at $775. Deans and athletics staff also paid $775 for F99 and F21 permits. These highest-priced permits were purchased by 191 staff.
Currently 30 percent of student fees, or $55 per student each academic year, goes to PTS to pay for faculty and student ridership on UT shuttle buses, according to the department’s documents.
With 7.5 million student, faculty and staff boardings annually, Baker said Capital Metro service cost the department more than $6,160,000 last year.
The shuttle, carpool, bicycling and other methods of transporting people to campus are critical to maintaining the transportation situation at UT, Baker said. Because other buildings surround the UT campus and limit places to build new facilities, parking lots are prime targets for demolition. Baker said every new building constructed in recent years except the Almetris Duren Residence Hall have been built on a former parking lot.
“Every time we lose spaces to construction, I’ve got to convince more people to take Cap Metro,” Baker said. “I’ve got to convince more people that riding on their bike is a good idea. I’ve got to convince more people to join the carpool.”
Currently 35 percent of students come to campus in a single-occupancy vehicle, and in Austin, 75 percent of people who answered the latest census said they commute via single-occupancy vehicle, Baker said.
Building garages to accommodate more parking is not a viable option because it is cost-prohibitive, Baker said. Prices to construct a garage on the UT campus can be as much as $25,000 to $30,000 per space, she said.
“Building a garage is expensive,” Baker said. “I don’t want that to be the first thing people think of. If I build a garage, I have to pay for it. I don’t have a magic pot of money where I can snap my fingers and say the garage is paid for.”
The San Jacinto Garage, opened in 1986, is the only garage of nine on campus for which PTS has fully paid back the loan, Baker said. The University is going to open a new garage in the area Players Restaurant and other noncampus buildings currently occupy. The garage will have 525 spaces, and PTS does not yet know how much it will cost.
In 2010-2011, debt service accounted for $6,358,098 of the total $8,199,046 in operating expenses for PTS. It also had $542,154 in capital expenses, which pays for maintenance on vehicles, buildings and equipment. Salary and wage expense for the year totaled $5,810,160.
Because UT patrons pay fees to access their parking, PTS wants to protect it, Baker said. Issuing citations helps accomplish that, she said.
“I think there’s this big misconception of enforcement hiding behind the bushes, just waiting until you leave to jump out and start writing a ticket,” Baker said. “That’s not what we do. We’re protecting the space you paid for.”
PTS was not able to provide the Texan with an amount of revenue generated by citations 2010-2011 fiscal year. However, in its 2005-2006 parking report, it stated 12 percent of its revenue came from citations and metered parking. In 2010-2011, the department issued 35,489 citations. Of those, 7,737 were appealed, according to PTS documents. PTS upheld 40 percent of appealed citations. The department reduced 38 percent, voided 1 percent and converted 19 percent into warnings.
Baker encourages students to appeal tickets. She said she reads every citation issued, whether or not the recipient appeals. Sometimes appellees not only have a valid excuse but also provide information on improving parking.
“Through the appeal process I make changes to signs so they are worded more clearly,” Baker said. “I find out there are signs covered by branches. I find out the paint on the ground is getting faded. Through this process I get to make changes that benefit everybody in the long run.”
Baker also said it’s important to give PTS feedback to improve the campus transit system.
PTS changed the flow of traffic in lot 80, next to Darrell K Royal-Memorial Stadium, because of a user suggestion, Baker said. Often PTS adds motorcycle parking in places users suggest, Baker said.
PTS will do everything it can to make the parking situation better, Baker said.
“PTS is usually viewed as the bad guy,” Baker said. “We issue citations. We make people pay to park on campus. But this staff is committed to providing outstanding customer service.”
Whether people view PTS as the villain or not, the department has the monumental task of making sure everyone is able to make it to campus each day. The current situation is far from ideal, but it’s something UT and PTS have to manage, Baker said.
“Everyone wants to park right outside where they work or where they go to school,” Baker said. “That’s not reality on this campus.”
Printed on Friday, October 26, 2012 as: Without space to expand, concerns will continue