Construction crews are building a new parking garage at Kansas University, but until it opens in August 2000, there will be even fewer parking spaces on campus.
It won't take long for incoming freshmen and transfer students to learn a basic rule of campus: A parking permit doesn't guarantee a parking space.
"Yes, there is a parking problem, and, yes, it affects all of us," said Donna Hultine, assistant director of parking at Kansas University.
"This campus was built on a hill, and it's hard to carve space out of a hill, especially when you're competing with classroom space. The classroom space is a priority; also, a lot of people don't like the idea of paving green space."
Construction has begun on a 818-space parking garage north of the Kansas Union, set to open in August 2000. While it's not a cure-all to a problem bemoaned by students, visitors and faculty alike, Hultine said the garage will ease the problem. In the meantime, however, there will be even fewer spaces, because a 66-stall lot was closed in July at the construction site. A total of 500 of the spaces in the garage will be metered, to pay off the $10 million project; the rest will be split between faculty and students. At the same time, 251 meters will be removed from other lots, and those will be used for student permits, Hultine said.
Park and ride
When KU's student body President Korb Maxwell campaigned for the position this spring, he wasn't surprised to hear that parking was on students' minds.
"The issue of parking is one of the most difficult issues to tackle. We have limited space at the university, and limited resources," Maxwell said. "This isn't a unique problem; there's a lack of parking at almost every university in the world."
Maxwell fears the parking garage solution might end up forcing students with permits to pay for a spot because they'll look for a spot and end up using a metered stall in the garage if they don't have time to look elsewhere.
"Quite simply, that's just students getting double-billed," he said.
Maxwell favors a Park and Ride program that was introduced in 1998. For $120 a year, students can park at the Lied Center lot on KU's West Campus and ride a bus to different areas on campus.
Hultine said the department sold almost all of the 300 Park and Ride permits printed for the first year of the program, and 500 permits will be offered next semester.
"I think when it first started, students would have to see just how bad the parking was before they'd look for solutions," she said. "... We approached Park and Ride not believing people in the Midwest were ready to give up their cars. We were surprised."
Maxwell said he is looking into the feasibility of expanding the Park and Ride program off-campus, at under-used commercial lots in the city.
"I think it's one of the most cost-effective means of using transportation," Maxwell said.
Kansas University officials also need to work cooperatively with Lawrence city commissioners, who recently pledged to adopt public transportation as a top priority for the city.
"It's definitely time for this community to invest in public transportation," he said.
Hultine said the parking department will continue to seek solutions, and will implement a car-pooling program that allows a group of students or faculty to share a parking permit.
The permits, hung from the rear-view mirror, can be used in different cars as long as they are registered with the program, Hultine said.
Permit users are warned, however: If the cars aren't registered, one of the four full-time parking officers or 25 students who write tickets will do so.
This summer, the officers will begin working with new hand-held computers that will allow them to track what make, model and year of a vehicle corresponds with each permit.
The system will replace a parking management software package in use since 1989, Hultine said.
-- Chris Koger's phone message number is 832-7126. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.