New tiered system includes increased rate for preferred lots; no change to rates for Lake Lots
MERCED — UC Merced's Transportation and Parking Services (TAPS) have announced a new parking plan for the campus, featuring a tiered system that includes a higher rate for preferred lots but no rate change to permits for lower lots — changes recommended by the TAPS Advisory Committee, which comprises faculty, staff and students and is advisory to the Vice Chancellor for Administration.
Under the new plan, which takes effect Sept. 1 — permits from 2009-10 will continue to be valid until then — the Le Grand Lot (formerly the Science and Engineering Lot), the Academic Office Annex Lot and the Upper Library Lot (the paved lot closest to the library) will be considered "preferred" parking.
Permits for these lots, called "A" permits, will cost $65 per month. These permits are optional and will be available to faculty and staff, as well as teaching assistants and graduate student researchers.
The changes, approved by Chancellor Steve Kang, are designed to address the ever-increasing demand for parking spaces near buildings and are in line with policies at most UC campuses, said Vice Chancellor for Administration Mary Miller.
"As our campus continues its steady, robust growth, parking will be something we'll have to address on a regular basis," Miller said. "The advisory committee felt this was a fair, sensible way to accommodate the current demand and decrease the daily rush for parking spaces, all while providing badly needed funds to improve our future parking infrastructure."
If demand is sufficiently high for the optional "A" permits, two additional lots will be deemed "preferred": the Lower Library Lot (the gravel lot adjacent to the Upper Library Lot) and the Muir Pass Lot (on Ranchers Road near the volleyball courts). The "A" permits will be sold at a ratio of 1.1 permits for each available spot, greatly increasing the likelihood that these permit holders will find spots available.
The current Faculty/Staff permits will be renamed "B" permits, and the current Student Commuter permits will be renamed "C" permits. The cost for both the "B" and "C" permits will remain at $30 per month, and these permits will allow parking in the "commuter lots" — the two Lake Lots and the Evolution Valley Lot located at the entrance of campus.
Karin Groth, assistant director for TAPS, acknowledged complaints from those who will now park farther from their buildings than they are accustomed to but said that because of UC Merced's size, it's easy to lose sight of how close even the peripheral lots are to the main areas of campus.
"We've been very fortunate to park as close to our buildings as we do, even in our most remote lots," Groth said. "At most universities, premium rates would be required even to park as close to buildings as our Lake Lots are to the quad."
TAPS plans to accommodate those parking in the commuter lots — and those who opt not to commute to campus at all — in a number of ways. CatTracks routes have been expanded and will continue to do so, allowing more Merced residents to take public transportation to campus. And those who park in the commuter lots at the entrance to campus can catch CatTracks or the Route 22 shuttles to get up the hill.
Justin Matthews, a graduate student representative on the advisory committee, said that in spite of the rate increase for parking in preferred lots, the decision reached by the committee was a necessary step to address a significant issue of supply and demand.
"Over the years, prime parking has become more and more difficult to come by as our campus grows faster than parking can reasonably accommodate," Matthews said. "I know the price increase for premium parking will be a shock, but at least eligible graduate students now have the ability to choose whether we want to pay for prime parking or pay significantly less to park in general parking farther from the campus core."
Professor William Shadish, who represents the faculty on the advisory committee, said the changes will make parking much easier for faculty members who choose to purchase the "A" permits.
"This change should make parking near faculty offices and labs routinely available at any hour of the day and end the need for faculty to constantly drive around, searching for an open space," Shadish said.
Maggie Vilott, associate director of Housing Business and Operations and a staff representative on the advisory committee, said hours upon hours of debate and discussion went into the decision. Most campuses the committee looked at had tiered parking systems in which most people do not park close to their respective buildings, and ultimately the only way to truly improve the campus' parking situation is to raise enough money to pay for improvements.
"I think people don't understand that parking is an auxiliary unit; it's really a separate business all its own," Vilott said. "We have to continue to make some money in order to build more parking."
Those who would like to provide input about these and future changes to UC Merced's parking system should contact one of their respective representatives on the TAPS Advisory Committee: