Officials Weigh Parking Options

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With enrollment at UCSD projected to increase dramatically
over the next few years, the offices of Campus Planning and Transportation
& Parking Services have released a joint report aimed at providing
solutions for the massive influx of traffic expected to accompany campus growth
through the year 2013.

The report recommends expanded use of mass transit, parking
eligibility restrictions and new parking structures as solutions to alleviate
projected traffic problems. The All-Campus Commuter Board, however, has already
started a massive campaign to protest the construction of any proposed
structure, particularly one in the School of Medicine.

The report’s study took into account parking lot use by
students, faculty and staff as well as other sources of campus traffic,
including patients seeking treatment from UCSD’s health care services,
prospective students and their families touring the campus and visitors from
the greater San Diego area coming for sporting events, lectures and
performances.

The report predicts a campus population increase of 5,300
over the next five years. To accommodate the influx, new academic and
residential buildings will be constructed on some existing lots during that
period, decreasing the number of lots available on campus by the 2012-13 school
year.

But the decrease means that in five years, only 4 percent of
the parking spaces on campus will be vacant during peak usage — a full
percentage point below the 5 percent vacancy rate that T&PS deems optimal.
Previously, UCSD targeted a 10 percent level, which was recalculated and
lowered in light of modern operational efficiencies and cost-containment goals.

Proposed construction of a new parking structure in the
School of Medicine would require increasing student fees anywhere between 4.5 percent
to 10.2 percent per year, the report said. Annual fee increases have never
exceeded 5 percent in the past.

If the plan is approved, the fee increases could start as
early as this coming year and continue until the 2012-13 school year, the
estimated date of completion for the structure.

In addition to the possible student-fee increases, permit
prices would increase anywhere from 19 to 63 percent. For example, a monthly
student parking pass that currently costs $61 could cost as much as $100 by
2013.

The report notes a concern that the large fee increases
could discourage permit sales, which could in turn transform the proposed
parking structure into a financial sinkhole.

ACCB President Jerrod Zertuche said the example of parking
structures built at San Diego State University in 2006 provides a convincing
example of why a new parking structure should not be built at UCSD.

Parking permit costs were increased to help fund the
construction of the parking structures at SDSU. However, the increase deterred
students from buying permits, and the combination of this funding shortage and
the increased construction staff costs caused the university’s parking fund to
fall into a deficit.

ACCB students fear that a similar situation would result if
UCSD were to approve a similar parking structure, and are heavily campaigning
against the proposal. The group said that numerous parking spots are still
available on campus and that the pursuit of alternative forms of transportation
is more likely to achieve administrators’ desired goals.

The report estimated that a combination of transportation
alternatives and parking eligibility restrictions would be the most
cost-effective way of eliminating the need for almost 4,000 additional parking
spaces.

Twenty-one percent of available campus parking spots were
found to be vacant during peak hours last September.

“Look at the Hopkins Parking structure — there is a whole
floor of V spaces that isn’t used at all,” Zertuche said. “That’s what’s going
to happen to the new parking structure, I guarantee it.”

The campus carpooling rate has increased from 58 percent to
66 percent since 2001, while rideshares and buses have also become more popular
and reliable alternatives for commuting to campus.

A planned Regional Transit Pass would allow UCSD affiliates
to ride all public transportation services throughout San Diego County,
coupling with an expected boost in public transportation in the next decade.

The report found that placing a parking restriction on all
freshmen would free up as many as 1,000 spaces, though such restrictions have
never before been necessary. A few hundred more spaces could be opened up with
the help of a proposed policy that encourages bicycling and other non-motorized
transportation.

If all these plans are implemented, as many as 4,300 spaces
— more spots than a proposed structure could offer — would be opened up for
parking.

Over the next few weeks, T&PS will be holding open
forums on the matter, and a nine-person committe of administrators, students
and faculty will vote on the proposed structure in early February.

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