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UM catching on to wave of the future

Parking is always a topic that raises concerns from the student body about such issues as the availability of parking or restricted areas. While these problems are not solved, the Department of Parking and Transportation may be making a few changes in the cost of parking. That is, if one is the owner of a hybrid car.

During the fall semester, Dr. Richard Weisskoff, professor of international studies, gave his economics and development course the assignment to find something that could be done at the UM or the Miami community that would make a difference in the environment.

Nolan Jaeger, senior, and Shawn Rosen-Holtzman, junior, both international studies majors, developed the idea of giving parking discounts to students who owned the newly popular and more environmentally friendly hybrid cars. What started as a class project has now become an initiative that is likely to be implemented in the fall 2005 semester.

“We began researching the idea after the [2004 presidential] elections,” Jaeger said. “With Bush as president, the energy stocks went up and it was apparent that we needed to invest in alternate fuel sources and conservation.”

After receiving a positive reaction from Weisskoff and other members of the class, the team approached UM President Donna Shalala with its proposal. Shalala simply said it was an “interesting idea” and put the two in contact with Chuck McConnell, director of Parking and Transportation.

“Our expectation is to increase overall awareness that hybrid cars have a number of benefits and hopefully encourage people to look at this new breed of vehicle when they are considering purchasing a new car,” Rosen-Holtzman said.

Hybrid Facts

  • U.S. hybrid car buyers qualify for a tax deduction of up to $2,000 if the car was purchased in 2003 and $1,500 if in 2004.
  • In Florida, hybrid drivers can use the HOV lane regardless vehicle occupancy or the time of day.
  • Hybrids such as the Honda Insight and Toyota Prius get about 60 miles per gallon in the city. SUV models like the Ford Escape get 36 mpg.
  • New hybrid models from Lexus, Toyota, GM and Dodge are expected to come out this year.
  • Celebrities such as Cameron Diaz, Brad Pitt, Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hanks zoom around Hollywood in their hybrids.
  • Due to a high demand, there is a waiting list of a few months for certain hybrid models.

source: www.hybridcars.com

The incentive to give a discount may not dramatically change the number of hybrid cars on campus, but it is likely to have some effect on UM students’ car choices.

“I think it’s a great idea that the University is supporting efforts to protect the environment,” Molly Maldonado, freshman, said. “I may even look into buying a hybrid car, which is something I hadn’t really considered before.”

What does this mean for students who do not own hybrid vehicles? It could mean that these students pay more for a parking permit with more restrictions than those with hybrid cars.

“It would be irritating for someone who paid less for their parking permit to be given access to residential parking,” Abbi Khorr, freshman, said. “As it is there are difficulties finding open spots in designated areas.”

In regard to the overall effect this will have on the influx of parking, plans are currently underway and a meeting has been set for the end of January to finalize the details of the program, including the types of hybrid cars that would receive the discount as well as the actual figures of the discounted rates.

“Before anything is finalized we need to consider the statistics and what this will mean for the Department of Parking to insure this is feasible,” McConnell said.

>> The Hurricane will follow-up on this story as more information is released.

Stacey Arnold can be contacted at s.arnold@umiami.edu.

January 25, 2005

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The Miami Hurricane

Student newspaper at the University of Miami


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