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Garage adds 1,000 spots

USF students, faculty and staff upset with increased parking permit fees should begin to see how their extra dollars have helped when the University’s third parking garage opens Monday.

Although the $16 million Laurel Drive garage – which sits near the intersection of Holly and Magnolia drives – is not located in an immediate high-traffic academic area, Director of Parking and Transportation Services Manuel Lopez said it would serve students near fine arts, Moffitt, USF Health, psychology and communication sciences and the School of Physical Therapy as enrollment grows.

The location of the garage was chosen to offset traffic for the new fine arts building, which is scheduled to begin construction in summer 2007, in the area around the parking lot across from the Moffitt Research Institute and the Psychology/Communication Sciences & Disorders building.

The Center for Advanced Health Care, which is scheduled to open in early spring 2008, has also pledged about 200 reserve spaces for when its building is completed. Reserve spaces cost $744.

Lopez said the garage would initially contain about 750 student spaces on levels 1, 2 and 3, and levels 4, 5 and 6 will contain about 750 reserve spaces.

But the space allocations may change as the new buildings come up, Lopez said.

Since the garage was built on an existing 500-spot parking lot, about 125 mixed spaces will also reopen, adding a net of 1,000 spaces and putting the total number of parking spaces on campus close to 20,000, Lopez said.

“We’re hoping that people are able to find space, and they directly go to the garage rather than circle lots, so we’re hoping it will benefit the students in the sense that it will save them time.”

In March, the University’s Board of Trustees approved a 20 percent fee increase for all permits, which raised the annual non-resident student permit from $105 to $126 and staff permits from $155 to $186.

The BOT will have to approve an additional 20 percent raise in March 2007 to offset the cost of a planned Garage IV and Garage V in addition to the University’s combined debt for parking garages. The increase would raise the cost of student permits to $151 and staff permits to $252.

Assistant Vice President of Campus Business Services Jeff Mack and Lopez have said the fees are needed for the University to get approval to fund new garages.

“It’s trying to get us to where we need to be to keep us ahead of the game in terms of the building and the need for campus,” Mack said. “If we stop building because we didn’t have the funding to do that, all the sudden one year we’re going to turn around and you’re going to be back here with gridlock on campus because there just isn’t enough (parking) to meet demand.”

Like the Crescent Hill and Collins Boulevard garages, Garage III will take 20 years to pay for, costing about $22.4 million.

Funding for an $18 million Garage IV has already been approved, but officials have not yet secured funding or a definite location for Garage V.

The fourth garage will be located near the Magnolia Apartments and contain about 2,000 new spaces. The location will also coincide with the construction of a new residence hall.

In addition to approving funds for new garages, Mack said Parking and Transportation Services had to come up with about $350,000 it received from the city of Tampa to operate shuttle services around 42nd and 46th streets.

Mack said funding for the shuttle system came from $3 million in concurrency dollars from the city of Tampa since its inception about five years ago.

HARTline also put a temporary strain on Parking and Transportation Services when it raised fare prices last winter.

Money for HARTline and the Bull Runner comes from a $2.25 per-credit-hour Transportation Access fee paid by students. The fare for a HARTline trip is $1.50, though the price is free for students. Parking and Transportation Services is billed 75 cents for student fairs. Staff members pay 50 cents while Parking and Transportation Services picks up an additional 25 cents for each staff ride.

“That’s why we’re raising the rates,” Mack said. “It’s the whole system that’s raised, so a little bit of that is going toward Garage III, a little bit going to Garage II, Garage I, surface parking – everything else that we have to pay, and that stretches it out.”

Lopez said the University wont depend solely on parking garages to ease the problem.

“We continue to look for alternatives,” Lopez said. “We look for alternative transportation, we’re talking about making improvements to the shuttle. … We’re looking at ways to move people intra-campus without having to bring cars on campus. At this point, the demand is so great, that we have no other option, but we’re hoping to get to the point where all these alternatives help us to balance out the demand and there may not be a need for that many parking garages in the future.”