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1 December 2010

Parking problems prove a popular plague

Got a problem with parking? Get in line.

“You have to get here early or it takes 15-20 minutes unless you get lucky,” said Kelly Mena, a freshman commuter student. “I plan my whole day around my commute.”

Two of the most frequent complaints by students involve the price of the parking permits and the availability of parking in the areas from the Whitten Learning Center to the School of Engineering.

An annual regular parking permit costs $444 for commuters, $478 for residents and $222 for an annual discount permit. These prices are determined by the University of Miami’s senior administration.

“For the lump sum to cost that much, it’s hard,” said Jonathan Hoffman, a senior who commuted to a summer job on campus.

But when the prices are compared to UM’s peer institutions, they fall in the middle range. A permit at Carnegie Mellon University costs $1,200 but as little as $60 at Brandeis University.

“Our senior admin has been trying to keep prices down,” said Richard Sobaram, the director of the Department of Parking and Transportation. “We don’t want to impose any burdens.”

And they might have succeeded. Considering that the lots are enforced approximately 215 days out of the years and that parking is free after 4 p.m., a regular parking permit price breaks down to around $1.85 a day

“When you put it that way, it doesn’t seem so bad,” said Bianca Zuluaga, a junior.

But it may have worked a little too well. Parking is in fact subsidized by the university.

“The money we collect for parking permits and citations does not cover our costs,” Sobaram said.

What is collected is used to maintain the parking lots, run the shuttle system and pay the mortgage on the parking garages.

This means that the popular solution of building another parking garage by the School of Nursing and Health Studies is not feasible. While this garage would provide around another 1,000 spaces in a high traffic area of campus, it would come at a price.

“We have very limited resources,” Sobaram said. “That additional 1,000 spaces is $20 million. They could reinvest it into the classrooms.”

Some students agree with Sobaram.

“It might be counterproductive,” Hoffman said. “It’s better to walk or carpool. Sometimes you have to bite the bullet.”

Others are adamant.

“It’s worth it,” Mena said. “After weighing the pros and cons, you can save up one year and plan for the future.”

There is the option of purchasing a discount permit and parking in the garages, but this is unpopular with many students.

“It’s pretty expensive, but being a girl who’s super involved on campus, it’s safer,” said Stephanie Fleitas, a sophomore commuter who purchased a regular permit.

Sobaram agrees that the discount is often not enough to convince students to park in the garages. He and his team are working to educate students about their options.

“We are trying to talk to students in their language,” he said. “But it’s a constant struggle. Every year, you have a couple thousand new students.”

But his biggest piece of advice to students is to simply arrive early.

“Students spend time planning for their classes, but don’t spend five minutes on parking,” he said.

Alysha Khan may be contacted at akhan@themiamihurricane.com.

Alysha Khan may be contacted at akhan@themiamihurricane.com.