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University to purchase two parking lots

By Jackie Wattles
On February 19, 2013

  • The University of Connecticut has plans to purchase two parking lots, ‘Farmer Brown’ and ‘X Lot’ and convert them into parking for commuters and faculty. Coryn Wassik/The Daily Campus

The university is purchasing privately owned parking lots with 600 spaces on the northwest side of campus to be converted into parking for commuters and faculty.
The parking lots, known as "Farmer Brown" and "X lot," will be available for faculty that have "area 2" parking permits and students with commuter permits after spring break. The $3.8 million purchase is expected to be finalized in the next few weeks.
UConn's transportation director, William Wendt, said the university would most likely construct a facility on the 26-acre plot of land. A new recreation facility, an athletic field or a parking garage are all possible uses that have come up in discussions among the planning group.
"That planning will happen over the next year or so," Wendt said. "But until we know what we're going to do with the site, we'll use it as parking. But the final decision is something the board of trustees will have to approve." Wendt said.
Brittany Power, a senior psychology major who lives off-campus, said the additional parking space is a much-needed addition.
"Parking [for commuters] is so far away and you have to take a bus to get to your classes," Power said. "The buses are never on time, forcing you to arrive earlier than necessary or late to class. It's incredibly inconvenient."
Parking services is also hoping to address funding issues by raising prices of parking permits in July. Passes for central lots - for students and faculty - will be increased by up to $50 per year, and "C lot" will see a $34 per year increase. "W lot" and parking garages will have no increase in the next year, though the prices of all lots are expected to increase over the next four to five years.
Wendt said Parking Services has been holding off on increasing parking fees in recent years despite having to subsidize $2 million a year for upkeep and administrative costs of UConn's parking infrastructure. Prices have been stagnant because of the hold on salary increases that was put on the university in 2011.
"When the pay raises were deferred, we made a conscious decision to defer any parking fee increases to students, faculty and staff," Wendt said.
A study conducted by McKinsey & Co., a consulting company, in 2011 provided a report of initiatives that UConn could undertake to save more than $50 million over five years. The parking fee increases are based on the report's suggestions.
According to a study conducted by Parking Services, UConn's parking rates are significantly lower than other universities. Of the 13 other institutions surveyed, UConn had the lowest rates for on-campus parking. Though urban universities had expectedly higher prices, other rural campuses, such as Dartmouth and Clemson, had rates up to 50 percent higher.
Parking Services also plans to introduce a new carpool system next semester. Parking Manager Martha Funderburk said it would allow students who live together off campus to purchase a joint pass that can be used for multiple vehicles.
"This option gives students the opportunity to go together to class, and they'll also get two one-day permits each so that one day, if it doesn't work out to carpool, they can go on their own," Funderburk said.
The plan would also allow the students on the carpool plan to purchase additional one-day permits for $1.50 each, and two to four students can share the commuter permit.
Janet Freniere, UConn's transportation manager, said Parking Services is also looking to rework the bus routes once construction on the roads surrounding Storrs Center is complete.
"We'll have three lines: green, yellow, and purple will all be going through the Storrs downtown area and we'll modify the routes to go in there," Freniere said.
Wendt also said Parking Services is beginning discussions with neighboring municipalities, CT Transit and Windham Region Transit District about expanding public transportation to and from Storrs.
"We're looking to make UConn more of a transit hub," Wendt said. "We have a rural community where people are really stuck in their cars, but cars aren't convenient if you'll be stuck in a traffic jam all day."
If Governor Dannel Malloy's plan to give UConn $1.5 billion in expansion money over the next few years actualizes, the influx of jobs and people will put new demands on the already congested roads surrounding the UConn campus. Wendt said they are looking to open up additional routes from UConn to Farmington, Tolland, West Hartford and Hartford to make commuting a possibility.
Wendt said this issue is still in the beginning stages of discussion and question remains on whether they should act without the fate of the $1.5 billion Next Generation Initiative definitively decided, considering a massive public transportation expansion like UConn Parking Services is eyeing would require additional legislation and public funds.
"But the legislators should be expecting to deal with this issue," Wendt said. "It's natural if you create 5,000 jobs you'll have to give 5,000 people a way to get around."

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