Aggieville’s paid parking garage has been in operation since January and helps pay for “annual operations and maintenance costs associated with the garage,” according to the Aggieville website. However, some Manhattan residents, like Margaret Haden, are still wondering whether the inconvenience of paid parking is worth visiting Aggieville at all.
“I try to use the parking garage as little as possible,” Haden said. “Usually when I’m [in Aggieville] it’s for enjoyment or going out to eat or something. I would love to do more business down there, but I kind of try to avoid the area at the moment which is unfortunate.”
Haden said her experiences with the parking garage have been frustrating.
“I set up my car in the parking app and I’ve used this app in other cities before with no problem,” Haden said. “I come back and I have a citation on my window that said ‘the registration of this vehicle in the parking system is required.’ When you go on the back of the ticket, it says it’s a $10 fine.”
Haden said the ticket stated that she would have to appear in court to contest it, regardless of having proof that her vehicle was registered in the garage.
“I go in, and I have my proof printed off and everything,” Haden said. “They’re like, ‘Oh, that’s an issue with the system. You have to contact them.’”
Haden also said the ticket was misleading; it seemed like she was fined even though her ticket was just a warning.
“Since the ticket said zero dollars [on the front], I didn’t actually owe anything, but it doesn’t say that anywhere on the back,” Haden said. “All it says is you have to contest it or pay the $10, and if you don’t there’s going to be a warrant out for your arrest. It’s just very threatening and confusing.”
Besides issues with the parking app, Haden said there are other issues with the garage that Aggieville needs to address.
“I’ve gotten confused on when I actually pay,” Haden said. “What if I wanted to not pay in an app? Where do I go to do that? Is that clearly labeled? Is that even an option? It’s just kind of a guess-and-check method, it seems.”
Dennis Cook, Aggieville executive director, said he agrees that the parking garage isn’t always easy to figure out.
“Once you know how to use the app or kiosk it does seem very simple, but it’s not intuitive,” Cook said. “Without a little bit of guidance, it’s not the easiest to navigate. There’s people that walk in there everyday and say ‘I just parked, now I’m not sure what to do.’”
Haden said another issue she feels strongly about is parking for employees who work in Aggieville. She said she believes requiring employees to pay for parking in the garage is unfair.
“I lived in Dallas for three years, and this seems like a very big-city-no-feeling kind of thing,” Haden said. “Manhattan is still a community and we’re not treating Aggieville employees as part of that community, and it makes me sad.”
Cook said one solution for Aggieville employees is to purchase a monthly parking pass.
“If you’re a part-time employee of Aggieville, you can have your employer notify the parking garage people and they can make it effective that day,” Cook said. “That’s $25 a month for part-time employees. If you’re a full time employee where you’re working closer to 40 hours a week, you can get that for $40 a month.”
The biggest benefit of having the parking garage in Aggieville is the increase in parking spaces, Cook said.
“I’ve been around K-State and Manhattan since the 70s, and I can tell you that there’s never been enough parking in Aggieville,” Cook said. “You could say that in any decade. To go from 80 spots to 450 is very important for Aggieville.”
Elena Heinbach, freshman in communications and management, said she thinks people are frustrated with the paid parking garage because it’s a big change.
“I think since people were used to another way, we just have to get used to it,” Heinbach said. “I think it’s great how [Aggieville] is setting up new things, and the way they’re setting it up will be really nice and new for sure. I think it’s just an adjustment to switch up the ways we have to park.”
Cook said he wants people to remember that paying to park is not a new concept in Aggieville.
“Parking has never been free in Aggieville,” Cook said. “It was the same whether people were in the street or public parking lot. They were limited by time and what they had to do was either move their car or get a ticket.”
Cook said he thinks people are angry about paying to park in the garage because the system makes it more difficult to evade a ticket.
“Over time, people figured out that they could go erase the chalk off their tires or move their car three parking spaces where the chalk isn’t visible on their tires anymore,” Cook said. “Everybody had gotten used to going out and beating the system.”
Haden said the Aggieville parking garage has potential to be great for the city of Manhattan, but it is important the Aggieville staff address the issues the garage has and listens to the community.
“It’s not perfect at the moment but I do think this was a good investment,” Haden said. “I’m really excited to see Manhattan continue moving forward, and I know this might be a speed bump in that, but I think it can get better from here.”