Parking, parking, everywhere; but not a space for me

The most recent discussion about a parking garage on campus has been rekindled by the planning for the new College of Business building and safety concerns about the female-only dorms in the northeast section of campus.  We had similar discussions about five years ago, when the chemistry building was being planned.  Now, as then, while it seems that a parking garage makes sense, most of the data doesn’t support building a garage or adding any additional parking.

During the spring 2012 parking forums, several key bits of information were shared with people.  These key points include the fact that during busy days, and at busy times, there are between 200 and 300 parking spaces available on campus (by the way, the “hypothetical” parking garage would create about 200 ­­– 250 new spaces).  The forum also discussed the fact that MSU has more parking spaces per “full time equivalent” than any of our peer institutions.

Perhaps more important than the fact that we have enough parking spaces on campus is the fact that we don’t have sufficient funding to repair and refurbish the existing parking lots/spaces that we do have.  It is calculated that by 2047, MSU will need to spend $25 million to repair and refurbish its existing parking lots.  The problem is that there is only $2 million set aside right now, and there hasn’t been a significant contribution to the “R&R Fund” for the past four years.  To get to where MSU needs to be, approximately $657,000 per year will need to be put in the R&R fund.  With 7,815 parking permits sold in fiscal year 2012, each permit would need to be raised $84, and that increase would need to stay in place for the next 35 years.  This amount would be needed in addition to any other increase to pay for a parking garage.

One other issue discussed for supporting the parking garage is the lack of parking spaces in the northeast quadrant of the MSU campus.  Students, faculty and staff who live and/or work in that quadrant typically have to walk farther from their parking place to their destination.  While a parking garage would provide more parking in the northeast quadrant, it does so at a price of approximately $6 million for 200 – 250 more spaces.  An on-campus shuttle could be operated to take people from existing spaces to their destinations for a cost of about $200,000 or less per year.

Before we get too far down the path of even considering a parking garage on campus, let alone constructing one, let’s face the facts:   We already have enough parking on campus, and we cannot afford to repair and refurbish (replace) the parking we already have.  If the parking currently available is not in a convenient area, an on-campus shuttle would address that issue.  I hope all of us can look at the issues and facts, and investigate all alternatives before we go down a path that may lead to a future we don’t want.  As Joni Mitchell said in her song “Big Yellow Taxi,” “Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone, they paved paradise and put up a parking lot.”

— David Kack, Program Manager for Mobility & Public Transportation at the Western Transportation Institute – MSU