Parking permits not moneymaker for St.Thomas

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Despite popular belief among students that parking permits at St. Thomas generate university profits, it is not the case.

The university’s parking prices are determined by a committee that meets quarterly to determine the cost. The prices, however, have remained constant for about seven years.

St. Thomas’ prices vary. Commuter passes are $250 a year. Resident upperclassmen pay $450 a semester, and freshmen residents pay $1,080 for the year.

Freshman commuter Ivy Nguon didn’t buy a parking pass this year, although she plans to next year. Nguon said she thinks the resident prices for freshman are unfair.

“They just don’t want you to have a car on campus at all,” Nguon said.

Some students have criticized St. Thomas for having the highest prices among ACTC schools. However, Diana Kaardal, St. Thomas parking and transportation services manager, said that St. Thomas charges more because it is considerably larger than the other schools.

<p>Graphic created by Genevieve Cossette.</p>
Graphic created by Genevieve Cossette. (Click image to enlarge.)

St. Thomas has approximately 6,270 undergraduate students; St. Catherine University has about 3,830; Bethel has about 3,388; Macalester has about 1,978 students; and Hamline has roughly 1,826 students. The total undergraduate enrollment at the University of Minnestoa-Twin Cities is 33,607.

St. Kate’s charges $90 for commuters and $190 for resident students; Hamline and Bethel charge $150 for both commuters and residents; and Macalester does not charge for parking. U of M students, who pay the most for parking, spend $65.50 a month for surface lot parking, $97.25 a month for ramp parking, and $127.25 per month for garage parking.

Hamline is the only school that does not charge proportional prices to the size of its student body. Hamline’s tuition is about $31,652, whereas Macalester’s total tuition is about $53,419.

“When you are parking in an urban environment, parking is always limited,” Kaardal said. “The city is always very concerned about how many people we have driving in, and they want us to do everything we can to limit the number of people driving to campus.”

Senior Ilya Natarius commutes to school and thinks the price he pays for a permit is fair, compared to resident students who pay more.

“I know a lot of people do struggle with parking, and there aren’t enough spaces—they sell more permits than there are spots,” Natarius said.

Kaardal explained that if the university sold only 2,600 spaces (St. Thomas’ total number of parking spaces) then most of the spaces would sit vacant all day. This year, the university has sold 4,200 permits and has not reached parking capacity, Kaardal said.

Senior Sean Grismer has a resident parking pass but understands that the limited amount of parking spaces and high demand for spots, coupled with facility maintenance, is what drives permit prices.

“If that is the reason, I understand… if they just wanted to raise prices (arbitrarily), it would be kind of bogus,” Grismer said. “It’s always nice to have lower rates, but if they are high for good reason, I understand.”

Not all students are as understanding as Grismer. Junior Ashley Weis has commuted to school for the past few years and thinks the parking prices are outrageous.

“I hate parking because there is never anywhere to park—I can never find a spot,” Weis said. “I don’t really know why parking is so expensive; I just know it is. Probably because they can charge so much.”

However, Kaardal said the university is not trying to gouge students.

“It is certainly not a moneymaking area for the university. It costs more to run all the parking services than we charge for all the permits.”

Patrick Roche can

6 Replies to “Parking permits not moneymaker for St.Thomas”

  1. Not a moneymaking area? Well, why not do the math. Lets assume that: 
    500 commuter permits were sold @ $250
    200 freshman permits were sold @ $1,080
    3500 regular permits were sold @ $450
    Thus, total revenue can be estimated to be $1.9 million! 
    Now, lets say that there is six Public Safety officers who focus solely on parking services, two other full time employees and six student workers. The cost of labor is: 
    8 full time positions @ $80,000 (including benefits etc.) 
    6 student positions @ $4,000
    Thus, the labor cost is $664,000/year. 
    What are the other costs? Well, lets think for a minute. 
    cost of printing the permits: $5,000 
    other maintenance costs: $200,000 (lets assume it is very expensive to paint the parking lots and to clean them) 
    Thus, gross total cost is $664,000 (labor) + $205,000 (other) = $869,000. 
    Therefore, the profit from running parking services is about $1,000,000 / year.

    Disclaimer: The cost structure might be, obviously, different, but on the surface it seems like, given the information we have, parking services in fact do generate money for the university. 

  2. John, Maybe the committee, that “meets” quarterly, gets $250,000/meeting. Diana, All the big car dealerships lose money on each car they sell too. A salesperson once told me that. Popcorn please.

  3. The bigger expense is not necessarily compensation budgets (as John tries to calculate above), it’s about facility budgets. Revenue is one category in a budget, but actual “money-making” or profit is an entirely different thing–it’s the end result of the overall budget. You need to include the cost of building and maintaining parking ramps is much more than the revenue from the permits. If we were lucky enough to have the space for only surface lots, the costs of maintenance would be much less. However, UST is landlocked and students consistently demand more parking spaces, so ramps are the only other option. I believe the cost of construction of a single ramp parking space was once quoted in Tommiemedia as around $17,000. It would take 68 commuter permits to pay for just the initial construction of that single space (not to mention the maintenance, electricity for lighting the ramps, man-power, etc.). Even if that space were used by 2 students each day for the year, it would take 34 years to pay for the initial construction. Yes, we’re lucky to have donors that helped with that construction, but the reality is that it’s an expensive venture for all involved to provide parking to a large group of students, faculty, and staff in an area like this.

  4. Brian, So before, the parking ramps, St. Thomas was “making money” on the sale of parking permits? Hamline, Kates, Bethel and Mac. must be losing money on parking permits. I guess the old supply and demand…….oh well

  5. Brian – You argue that the cost of building a parking ramp is high, but were the costs not covered by donors to the university? In essence, would that mean the cost of building them, as it pertains to this issue, is irrelevant?

    BTW, I don’t park in the ramps – I park on Summit and Howell and walk an excruciating 3 or 4 blocks. It’s terrible, I know….

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