Why Haven’t We Just Built a Garage?

Repeatedly, URMC faculty and staff ask the same parking-related questions, including “Why don’t we just build a garage?” and “Why are permit costs so high?”

As a first step toward addressing these important inquiries head on, be sure to watch Medical Center Chief Operating Officer Peter Robinson’s mini-interview on the subject, below.

If you have comments or suggestions as to how we can improve our parking operation at the Medical Center, please e-mail Medical Center Parking Operations Manager Patricia Hudson.

[Transcript follows]

Hi, I’m Peter Robinson and I’m the chief operating officer at the University of Rochester Medical Center.

As you know, we have a parking problem here at the University of Rochester Medical Center. In many ways, it is actually a good problem to have: It means we are growing, that the Medical Center and the University are actually seeing more employees, seeing more patients. Activity is up, and this is all actually quite good news in a rather tough economy.

However, for each of you, we appreciate that it’s a real problem to deal with parking; like you, I recognize that our parking operation is not what we want it to be.

There are two main issues that we need to deal with. The first is “Do we have enough parking, and how do we get more of it?” Obviously, this means more asphalt, and the need to physically develop more parking spaces.

The other side of the equation, which is equally important, is to figure out ways for people not to drive to the Medical Center – that is, for us to manage the demand on our parking spaces more effectively. Some of this involves you. We want you to explore alternate options for getting to work, and consider carpooling, using public transportation, and other mechanisms as a means to help us limit the demand on space. Naturally, we want to be helpful to you as you consider which of these alternate options might work for you; to that end, we are putting together a program that will allow you to access information about carpooling, and we’ll even do whatever we can to help you find partners, where that’s practical. We’re also working closely with RTS to develop bus routes so that, on a town-by-town basis, we can clearly identify convenient ways for you to move from where you live, to where you work, without needing to drive your car.

Let’s also talk a little bit about the garage, and options for a future garage. We do believe that this is something that we’ll build in the future, and we think it will happen despite the fact that a garage is really one of the most expensive ways that we can accommodate parking. In reality, our parking operation in the aggregate loses money, and garages in particular are especially cost-inefficient. It costs on average $2,500 per space, per year, to build and maintain a garage; and even when you consider how much we charge employees to park in the garage currently, you’ll notice that there’s a big gap between that $2,500-per-space expense and what current permit costs cover. So you can see that, on an ongoing basis, this is a very steep hill to climb financially. And while we recognize the fact that this will have to happen eventually, that’s why we are putting so much focus on alternate solutions to tide us over – including some additional surface parking, possibly the need to expand shuttle operations and offsite locations, and also to look at the demand management side, which includes carpooling, public transportation options, etc., which we think are so important.

I also want to take a moment talking about parking and its costs. Perhaps we’ll even bust a little bit of a myth here – the myth that we make money on parking. In reality, we don’t; parking loses approximately $1.2 million each year.
When you think about what it costs to run a parking operation, it might seem like almost nothing; all you’re doing is driving in and putting your car on a piece of concrete! But the reality is that there are many direct costs. There are the staff that work in the operation; we have to pay to maintain our lots, filling as many potholes as we can (we’re trying our best, really!); we have to do snow removal; lots have to be resurfaced and restriped pretty regularly; and, of course, where we have offsite locations, we have to either lease the property or pay debt-service on it. All of those things contribute to the operating cost of our parking.

The other thing, which you may have noticed it if you’ve been relocated to a shuttle lot, is that your fees for parking have actually gone down (to reflect the distance and relative inconvenience of shuttle lots). So, while shuttle lots generate less permit revenue than on-site lots, in reality, they actually cost us more to maintain because shuttle operations themselves are very expensive. So you can see, the reality is that parking loses money, and is likely to continue losing money into the foreseeable future. I mentioned earlier the issue of the garage, and our future need to build a new one; while we recognize that it is something that we will need to do, we are trying to be as prudent as possible in the meantime, so that we don’t divert too many resources away from what we really need to invest in: the programs that bring all the activity to the Medical Center.

We thank you for your interest in this issue; it’s important to all of us. I realize that many of you have ideas and suggestions, and we want to give you a mechanism to share input [see e-mail address for Operations Manager Patricia Hudson, above]. We also want you to know that we do have a parking group that meets regularly to take advantage of the input that we get; we take seriously not only the complaints, but also the suggestions that you make. In fact, we’ve actually implemented some of them. Your feedback is of value to us, and we hope that you’ll continue to share it.

Going forward, we will try to communicate with you as we have updates as to where things are headed with parking, so that you can be better informed. In the meantime, I urge you once again to try to consider taking advantage of some of the opportunities that exist for alternatives to driving to work. We think that really is an important part of the solution, and in fact, they may even make your commute to and from work a little more pleasant as well.

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