April 28, 2011

Cornell Hikes Parking Fees for Motorcyclists

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To his displeasure, Kevin Leonard, a program analyst for the University, said that after 33 years of riding his motorcycle to work he may no longer be able to do so. As part of widespread changes to Cornell’s parking plans, the University will begin charging $115.54 a year for a motorcycle permit, replacing one $61.56 lifetime fee.

“[Cornell’s] definition of a lifetime permit is certainly different than the dictionary’s,” Leonard said. “At that price, I may stop buying it. I’m going to work another 20 years for Cornell and you’re looking at $2,000 for parking my motorcycle. It’s not likely that I would buy one.”

In addition to the price hike for a motorcycle permit, the University will increase rates for most permits, simplify the tier structure used to determine parking privileges, reduce the number of permit types and introduce a new IT system to enable web-based self-service for permit management. The changes, the majority of which will go into effect in July, were presented to the University Assembly Wednesday.

While some affected staff worried about the effects of the price increase, Cornell officials defended the overhaul.

“It did not strike me as a big economic blow here. Others are free to disagree, but it seemed like the change felt modest in my opinion, and I still believe that to be the case,” said Joseph Lalley III, senior director of facilities operations.

Lalley said that the one-time payment for motorcycles “made no sense.” The new annual fee, which is one-third the price of the cheapest permit fee for a car, was chosen because a motorcycle takes up one-third of a parking space, he said.

The change has already caused discontent among those who will be affected by the increase in the motorcycle permit cost, which will begin Sept. 1.

“If this goes into effect, I just won’t ride [my motorcycle] anymore to work. I’ll just drive a car, because I don’t need this kind of crap. I ain’t taking it no more,” said Ronald Woodard, systems testing analyst for the University.

Permit rates are rising for cars as well. There are four tiers of parking at Cornell, determined by their distance from campus: the central campus tier, the mid-campus tier, the perimeter tier and the outer tier. According to Lalley’s presentation to the U.A., the seven permits in the perimeter parking tier are increasing 3.9 percent, eight permits across the central- and mid-campus tiers are increasing about 5.5 percent, the outer tier remains free while the C permit is decreasing 5.5 percent.

“In general, one is going to be losing parking places on Central Campus and there are a fair number of parking spaces in the periphery. So they are clearly trying to incentivize, as they say, people to move out,” Charles Walcott, chair of the UA, said.

Lalley said that he would not be surprised if more people began using peripheral lots instead of central lots.

“We have no capacity on central campus so it’s probably appropriate to charge a higher rate for a scarce resource,” he said.

According to Lalley, Cornell’s Transportation Services department is facing a $500,000 budget deficit, which the permit increase would help reduce.

“There was a fair amount of discussion at senior staff about what was appropriate and what we needed to raise in terms of revenue through rate increases,” Lalley said. Still, “We are not covering all of our costs with this,” he said.

Walcott said that since there was a rate freeze over the past three years, the current rate increases average out to, at most, about 2 percent a year.

“It seems to me that that’s not totally unreasonable,” he said.

The simplification of the system has been met with positive responses. According to Lalley’s presentation, the current system has six tiers and 24 permit types, which leads to some confusing signs.

“You ought to be able to look at your permit and you ought to be able to look at the sign on the lot and know whether or not you can park there. And to have to sit there and stare at a sign, that’s an example of how we have gone completely over to the other side.” Lalley said.

The changes to the parking permit plan will decrease the number of tiers to four and the number of permits to 19.

“I think they should have done that a long time ago. It used to be really easy and they made it complex,” Leonard said.

“That seems like a generally sensible kind of move, as far as I can see, but the devil is, as always, in the details,” Walcott said. “It’s got so very complicated with all these special areas and special permits. I can understand why you would want to simplify it.”

Lalley, who was given control of the project in January 2010, said the changes to the permit system were in part driven by the need to replace the Transportation Department’s IT system. He said that the changes to the current parking plan were undertaken to make it compatible with the new IT system.

“What we needed to do was to find a business process that would conform to the business process supported by the vendor software,” he said.

Transportation services is also trying to make renewals, appeals, payments and temporary permits simpler, Lalley said. According to Lalley’s presentation, there will be web-based self-service that will allow commuters to complete the processes online, instead of having to go down to Transportation Services headquarters at 116 Maple Ave.

Original Author: Manuel Davila-Molina