Rice parking fees unreasonable
The other morning morning, I biked out to Greenbriar Lot to do a few laps on the track. I did a bit of counting on one of my laps, and I calculated that there were spaces for at least 700 cars inside the track itself - more if you put a few cars where the starting lanes are. There was one car there. I am not sure how it got there, since the entire thing was cordoned off. There was not any real reason to have it open, though - the rest of the lot could not have been more than half full.
A few weeks ago, I went to the parking office to see about getting a parking permit for the year. I am cheap and do not mind riding my bike to get to my car, so I figured I would just get a spot in Greenbriar. I made the mistake of not checking the prices before I went, and I almost did not believe it when the man I spoke with told me it would cost $363 to park there for the year. I asked him why I would choose to pay that much when I could park in the same place for a dollar every two days as a visitor (almost exactly half the cost assuming you use the lot year-round: Greenbriar costs $1 per entry for visitors, and you can stay there up to two days per entry). His answer: to avoid having to re-park every two days and to get "move-up" privileges on evenings and weekends. The former was undeniably tempting, but given the proximity of free evening and weekend parking in the neighborhood north of campus and on Main Street across from Lovett College, the latter seemed like less of a bargain.
The neighborhoods around campus are not places the administration - or the residents - want students to be parking, but the undergraduate surcharge and distance of Greenbriar Lot are much more powerful incentives than the email Vice President for Administration Kevin Kirby sent out on Aug. 28 reminding the Rice community of the university's policy regarding parking in the neighborhoods: "When visiting, residing or working at Rice-owned properties, Rice contractors and Rice students, staff, faculty and their guests are expected to park in university-provided parking facilities, not on neighborhood streets."
Compared to the rates charged by The University of Texas at Austin and the University of Houston, Rice's undergraduate parking fees seem exorbitant. UT's main campus is less than 1.5 times the size of Rice's, but UT has more than 7.5 times as many faculty, staff and students. At UT, the price for a student to park in a contract spot in a surface lot is $120 per year. UH's main campus is about 2.25 times the size of Rice's, but UH has more than five times as many faculty, staff and students. At UH, students can park for as little as $86 a year.
Why is there an undergraduate parking surcharge? According to Director of Administrative Services Eugen Radulescu, it is to discourage undergraduates from bringing their cars on campus and exacerbating what Radulescu said was the biggest problem: the shortage of spaces for the center of campus. While Radulescu said that there are about 2,000 spaces east of the Shepherd School of Music, there are 7,000 spaces to the west of it, including the parking at the BioSciences Research Collaborative. The surcharge is understandable for most of the campus' lots: Faculty, staff and graduate students in general have a greater need for parking. There are two exceptions that need to be made, however: for students living off campus, and for students will to park in the Greenbriar Lot, which clearly does not have a shortage of spaces.
By waiving the undergraduate parking surcharge in Greenbriar Lot, Rice would actually reduce parking demand for the other campus lots: It is one thing to pay an extra $87 to park on the close side of the stadium instead of the far side, and another thing altogether to pay an extra $297. While paying $153 to park a good 15-minute walk from my room (this might be as little as 10 minutes for south college residents) still seems extreme, it is much more palatable than the current rate. I might still get mugged on my way out to the lot, but at least I will not be robbed by the university before I even get there.
Seth Brown is an editor in chief of the Thresher and a Jones College senior.
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