Students pressed for UNL parking spots

resized-2Story and photos by Megan Conway, NewsNetNebraska

With a campus as big as the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, it’s no surprise finding a parking spot can be challenging.

“There have been many times when I’m actually late to class because I can’t find a spot to park,” said UNL junior Jackie McAtee, “It’s really frustrating.”

McAtee purchased a $400 commuter pass from UNL’s Parking and Transit Services which covers fall and spring semester. It’s the most popular parking permit on campus. If she finds a spot to park, it may be in UNL’s commuter parking lot which is another 10-15 minute walk from her classes.

 Getting what you pay for

The cost of a permit seems high to many cash strapped college students, but UNL Parking and Transit Services Director Dan Carpenter said there’s a reason why. Carpenter said UNL’s parking services are primarily self-funded. This means the funds that operate UNL’s parking system come from the sale of parking permits, parking fines, special events and meter parking revenues. The money helps maintain current parking spots or is used to build new ones said Carpenter.

Construction of the fifth parking garage on UNL campus

Construction of the fifth parking garage on UNL campus

“Since 1997, we have built four garages and a fifth one is going up right now,” said Carpenter. As of Aug. 30, the university sold 13,069 permits to students, faculty and staff to park in its four garages, 10 commuter lots, three resident-only lots, various faculty lots and six perimeter lots.

Carpenter said the number of commuter permits sold was actually down 100 permits last year. The construction of the fifth parking garage has taken away 75 spots, but will create many more when finished Carpenter said. Resident permit sales are up slightly this year, said Carpenter, but nothing to cause a huge issue with parking.

Parking solutions

Carpenter said even though some students have a hard time finding a parking place, there are several UNL parking lots that sit practically empty most days. These are UNL perimeter parking lots that are farther from the main campus. The university does provide vans, that run nearly all day, to shuttle students to campus. The vans are also on-call during the off-hours.

Carpenter believes many students worry that taking the perimeter lot vans takes too long and are too much of a hassle. He added that if the perimeter lots aren’t being used, there is no demand to expand UNL student parking. Or as the UNL Parking and Transit Services policy states: “Parking on the campus of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln is not a right, it’s a privilege.”

Lincoln Residents Affected

Lincoln residents sometimes suffer too from UNL parking issues. Adam Scholz, rents an apartment on the south side of Holdrege Street. It’s across from UNL’s east campus. Scholz said many UNL students have taken the limited street parking on his street because they can’t find parking spots on east campus. “There are times when I come home that I can’t find a spot to park,” Scholz said. He ends up having to walk a few blocks to reach his front door.

Game Day Parking

Another issue is special event parking at UNL, mainly for football and basketball games. Student permits don’t allow them to use UNL parking lots if they’re being used for special event parking on game days. Those spots are instead saved for people attending the event.

Carpenter said “It is rare that these events will conflict with the academic mission of the institution and permit parking can be used as normal.” However, parking on home football games has never been included as a part of the services offered to permit holders as 1) the demand for parking increases the value of the parking space on game day and would therefore increase the cost of the parking permit about $120 per season (and this is not the full market rate) and 2) the Athletic Department uses parking near the stadium to serve the donor base which financially supports the Athletic Department and the University.

Map of city campus parking

Map of city campus parking

Comparison to other Big Ten schools

Last year the university hired a consultant to compare UNL to other Big Ten Conference colleges’ parking services. The study found UNL isn’t too far off the mark. At the University of Iowa, the UNL permit McAtee purchased for $400 would cost $369. At the University of Minnesota, all full-time students are put into a “lottery” and only certain ones are chosen to buy a parking permit and guaranteed a parking spot.

Even though UNL parking issues may be the same each year, students like McAtee think they should have more information about the parking areas where they can park and details about buying parking permits. “Next year I plan on finding an apartment close enough to campus that I can walk to class or get a bicycle instead of paying all that money,” said McAtee.

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