Sept. 10, 2004 • Volume 13 Number 1
Parking On Campus: Questions and Answers
After months of discussions with administrators, faculty, staff and student committees and extensive planning with various administrative departments, Boston College implemented a campus parking improvement plan on Aug. 31. Facets of the plan, which can be viewed online, include strengthened enforcement of current parking regulations and a system of paid parking permits beginning Jan. 1 of next year.
Chronicle recently discussed the plan with Executive Vice President Patrick Keating, Academic Vice President and Dean of Faculties John Neuhauser and Vice President for Human Resources Leo Sullivan.
Chronicle: How has the parking improvement plan been received so far?
Keating: While many of the responses I have received have been positive, I think there is anxiety on campus about the new plan. People agree that a plan was needed to address the overall parking experience and very few have complained about the fees, which we did our best to keep within reason.
Everyone I've talked to also seems to recognize the benefits of increased enforcement and security. For the most part, people are wondering how the parking situation will develop over the course of the fall semester. We want to put people's anxieties at ease by reminding them that we will make adjustments to the plan as necessary and we will listen to people to make the system as effective as possible.
Chronicle: What has been the single biggest issue raised so far? Keating: Most people are asking, "Where will I be able to park and will faculty and staff be able to find parking?"
Everyone wants to be able to park in close proximity to where he or she works. Unfortunately, that is a request that we simply cannot accommodate. For example, there are 250 parking spots on Middle Campus, which account for about 6 percent of our total number of spots, and there are 1,500 people who work on Middle Campus.
Our goal is for faculty and staff to have priority in parking, so we set out to create a system where faculty are not driving around looking for parking spots and where spaces intended for faculty and staff will not be taken by students or visitors, as has been the case in the past. With this priority in mind, I believe that through better enforcement and improved communication the parking situation will improve substantially.
Chronicle: Are fellow University administrators supportive of the plan?
Sullivan: Jack Neuhauser and I are solidly behind this plan as parking issues needed to be addressed, and we feel that it will eventually improve the parking situation for all faculty and staff who park on campus.
Chronicle: Why was the plan necessary?
Keating: It was obvious that the parking experience at Boston College had deteriorated over the past few years due to a lack of enforcement and security. We also felt strongly that student tuition should not be subsidizing on-campus parking for faculty and staff. All of the vice presidents, deans and senior administrators realized that this must be done.
Chronicle: You indicated that during a sweep of campus one morning Boston College Police found more than 40 cars were illegally parked on campus. How will charging people to park prevent these unwelcome people from parking here in the future?
Keating: For the past few years many of our entrances had not been monitored, which led to the problem of non-BC people, guests of students and others taking spaces away from BC employees. We have already invested in hiring and training gate attendants who can better monitor the entrances to campus and enforce parking regulations. In addition, we will have better monitoring of the parking areas and better communication between the monitors, attendants and the Boston College Police Department.
We expect to get to a point where our employees can drive up to our gate, have their sticker verified and then be told exactly where there are available parking spots. This improvement will prove beneficial to everyone as it will eliminate the time spent driving around looking for open spaces that frequently occurred under the old system.
Chronicle: Some employees earn less than others. Was a more tiered parking payment approach considered?
Sullivan: The University recognizes that this is a sensitive issue for many Boston College employees. It was only after careful consultation with senior administrators, faculty, staff and student committees that we built a consensus and developed what we felt was the best possible plan with the most equitable and affordable rates, which are by and large below other comparable institutions.
Chronicle: Since employees are now required to pay for parking, is everyone who pays guaranteed a parking space?
Keating: No. There is too much demand and too little supply. We do believe that the situation will be improved with the changes in enforcement and improved communication. Our goal is that no faculty or staff member with a valid sticker will arrive on campus and not be able to find a space.
Chronicle: Why can't faculty, staff and students park on the new property recently purchased from the Archdiocese of Boston?
Keating: We are using the Brighton Campus for parking this fall and will continue to integrate it into our plans as we proceed with the master plan process in the coming year. We think the Brighton Campus will help to alleviate some of the congestion problems that have occurred in years past, particularly involving visitor parking.
Chronicle: Do you anticipate raising the parking fees anytime soon? If so, will it be an annual increase?
Keating: While there are no immediate plans to raise prices, I think it is fair to say that as costs increase, fees will have to rise to meet them. Our goal is for parking revenue to equal parking costs so that student tuition does not have to subsidize parking. We will certainly try to keep any increase as modest as possible.
Chronicle: Who will be organizing this effort?
Keating: Newly appointed Associate Vice President for Auxiliary Services Patricia Bando [see p. 3] will take the lead on coming up with the best solution to this important problem. She will work in conjunction with a committee seeking broad input on this issue. They are eager to hear from people.
Chronicle: What incentives does the University offer for those who wish to begin carpooling?
Sullivan: Commuters who choose to join forces and carpool to work will pay a lesser fee and will be guaranteed a prime parking spot on campus. The University also offers safeguards and a variety of services for those commuters who choose to carpool. The Boston College Transportation and Parking Services Web page has more details.
Chronicle: During the Democratic National Convention there was a shuttle bus that took employees from the MBTA stop at Chestnut Hill to the Chestnut Hill campus. Will that program be instituted on a permanent basis?
Keating: According to Transportation Manager Scott Winchell this was a very popular option during the convention. As a result, this service began running again on a permanent basis on Sept. 8. Commuters must sign up for the shuttle on the Transportation and Parking Services Web page.
Chronicle: In light of this new parking plan, how would you describe BC's overall employee benefits package?
Keating: Boston College offers one of the best health care packages in the nation, tuition remission for employees and their children, a great retirement program, competitive salaries and a wide range of fringe benefits.
Chronicle: From your research of other colleges and universities, how have they handled parking regarding their faculty and employees?
Neuhauser: We compared ourselves to other urban and suburban universities where parking is tight and demand exceeds supply. Almost all of the colleges and universities we studied have a similar program to this plan, however at a much steeper cost to employees.
Chronicle: Some faculty members have mentioned that they worry about not finding a parking space on campus in the late morning and afternoon. What assurances can you offer them?
Neuhauser: As Pat said, we are committed to providing parking for all faculty on campus, indeed for all employees who must park here. This is clearly a priority. With a renewed focus on parking enforcement as well as improved communication among our security attendants, we believe that the parking supply will increase and that faculty and staff will ultimately find it easier to park on campus in the months to come. We also recognize that these improvements will take some time so we intend to use the fall semester to learn as we complete the design and we welcome all comments from the community.