Parking Services: Same complaints with new technology on the way

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Student parking spaces in the parking garage next to the K-State Student Union fill up quickly. (File photo by Brooke Barrett | Collegian Media Group)

With more than 20,000 students on the Manhattan campus, parking spaces tend to run out quickly in the mornings, leaving commuters to circle parking lots like sharks in hopes of finding a spot.

The parking garage located next to the K-State Student Union has 500 student, 400 preferred, 270 timed (public) and 130 reserved stalls. Preferred stall owners have guaranteed garage access between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, while reserved stall owners have 24-hour guaranteed access. These permits cost $600 and $900 each year, respectively.

Currently, it costs $1.50 per hour to park in the garage for a maximum of $12 per day.

Student parking spaces frequently fill up before 10 a.m.

“I can never find a spot in the parking garage because normally the student section is always full,” Emily Smith, junior in criminology, said.

The hunt for parking space on campus can result in students being late to classes.

“If you aren’t there at 8 a.m., it becomes virtually impossible to find parking, so you have to park in the neighborhoods near campus,” Anthony Suitt, sophomore in communications studies, said.

When class sessions let out, Smith said finding parking turns into a fight.

“I always have to sit there and wait till classes in session are done, then battle other people for a spot,” Smith said.

While students, staff and visitors struggle for space, Parking Services faces its own problems.

“The main concern Parking Services has currently is the same as the rest of the university: budget,” Jeff Barnes, director of parking and transportation, said. “While we receive no funding from student fees, tuition or taxes, our funding mostly relies on permit sales.”

Student parking passes cost $180, an extra $30 can buy daytime student garage access and another $20 allows after-hours access. Faculty permits range between $155 and $205, with after-hours garage parking for $20.

With decreases in enrollment, Parking Services has been forced to rely on the sale of permits, which, with higher payroll and maintenance costs, can lead to lack of funds for projects and repairs, Barnes said.

“We have not filled certain full-time employee positions that have been vacated to help reduce costs,” Barnes said. “The only other alternative is to do less maintenance, that means the parking lots deteriorate more rapidly.”

Although some students have said the cost of parking is already high, Barnes said fee increases are on the table.

“We haven’t had a fee increase in five years, so through the Council on Parking Operations, we are examining a fee increase,” Barnes said.

With budgets decreasing, there are still a wide variety of services available, including the Park ‘n’ Ride ATA Bus shuttle system on campus.

“Increasing ridership would alleviate some parking issues in the heart of campus.” Barnes said.

Commuting to class by foot or bicycle would also help reduce the amount of people who need parking space each day.

Although there are many complaints aimed at Parking Services, Barnes said a lot of these are due to a lack of understanding of how the process works.

“The biggest complaint we get from students is ‘There’s nowhere to park,'” Barnes said. “The real complaint is there’s nowhere close to the park. There are stalls, but you have to walk.”

Barnes also said even if there aren’t any available stalls in the parking garage, there are many places where spots are consistently available.

“We have stalls available north of Weber Hall on a daily basis,” he said.

Parking Services plans to implement new technological advancements to make students and visitors have a better parking experience.

“I want to make the process simpler and more user friendly,” Barnes said.

One of these new elements is license plate recognition, which would eliminate the need for parking permits to be sold each year.

“Your license plate becomes your permit,” Barnes said.

Barnes said this system will pay for itself in three to five years and make parking enforcement “much more efficient as it allows for greater coverage in less time.”

Another change coming to Parking Services is an app called ParkMobile. ParkMobile will allow students and visitors to pay for metered parking through the app. This will allow you to pay without coins and “extend their time without returning to their meter as well,” Barnes said.

This new technology is expected to be implemented before January.

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