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Posted on Sun, Aug 28, 2011 : 5:55 a.m.

New data shows U-M should rethink more-parking mantra, put new garage on hold

By Guest Column

In all the debate over the Fuller Road Station project, one question has gone unasked: does the University of Michigan need more parking? Leaving aside the issue of the City of Ann Arbor’s stake, is continued parking expansion in the interest of the university itself?


Joel Batterman is a master of urban planning student at U-M.

Certainly, U-M itself has thought so for years. “The only solution to the campus parking problem is more parking,” the dean of our College of Architecture and Urban Planning said in 1956. Over the past decade, U-M has added 2,300 new spaces in parking garages. This year, however, as part of its Integrated Assessment of Campus Sustainability, U-M sponsored a systematic study of parking use that concluded it’s time to rethink the more-parking mantra. (Download the final report at

According to U-M surveys, parking at the hospitals and Central Campus is nearly full, but parking farther out is abundant, with more than 900 vacant parking spaces on average at both North and South Campus. Last fall, the Pfizer site’s open lots contained another 700, not counting those still sealed off. In other words, U-M already has at least 2,500 vacant parking spaces, more three times the amount it’s proposing to build.

As a result, the study suggested, more parking won’t actually solve the campus parking problem. Instead, we might consider why we’re not getting better use out of the parking we already have. Common-sense policies can solve the parking problem instead of kicking it down the road.

First, U-M can stop subsidizing parking. Right now, U-M requires academic units to contribute $142 of the cost of each parking permit. Not paying people to park is a good way to avoid having to build more parking.

Second, U-M can adjust relative parking prices to match demand at particular locations. On game day, landlords charge more for parking the closer their properties are to the Big House. U-M parking should follow a similar principle. This would make parking on Central Campus more costly, but it would reduce the time parkers spend searching for a space, since garages at the core of campus wouldn’t be quite as crowded.

Third, in combination with the second strategy, U-M can enhance bus service to campus from outlying lots. Thousands of U-M staff already choose to save money by using U-M and AATA park-and-rides. More would if they could count on faster and more frequent transit.

Fourth, U-M can encourage more flexible parking payment options. If you buy a monthly parking pass, like most people do now, you’ll be motivated to use it as often as you can. If parking sold on a daily or hourly basis, you’d be more likely to choose alternatives when they’re convenient.

Fifth, U-M can adopt a salary-scaled parking system, like Yale has. It’s only fair that parking spaces be priced relative to workers’ ability to pay, and it ensures that the effects of a demand-based price system won’t be disproportionately felt by those who can least afford it.

More than two dozen U-M faculty, including a past dean of the College of Architecture and Urban Planning, have petitioned President Coleman to consider this course of action. Four decks of concrete for cars doesn’t advance U-M’s sustainability mission, and the cost of the project works out to about $44,000 per parking space, roughly four years’ undergraduate tuition. With the same total sum, U-M could boost bus service, provide local funds for a train station, and retain more to spend on things like financial aid.

A strategy of perpetual parking expansion may have made sense in the Interstate era. It doesn’t make sense today, from the perspective of economics or ecology. By choosing cheaper, less polluting, and more effective alternatives, U-M has a chance to demonstrate the “Michigan Difference” and renew its commitment to be “leaders and best.”

Joel Batterman is a U-M master of urban planning student with a concentration in transportation, and was a member of the transportation task force of Integrated Assessment of Campus Sustainability. He blogs at



Mon, Aug 29, 2011 : 3:15 p.m.

I found problems with several of these points: 1 - Subsidized parking. Paying people to park? People with UM parking passes have money deducted from their check every month to park. I pay almost $800 a year to park because we have nothing but Blue lots in the med school area (which require a $66/month parking permit). I'd hardly say I was being paid to park. The best part, UM doesn't guarantee a parking spot for you for $800 a year. 2 - U-M can adjust relative parking prices to match demand at particular locations. They already have this. UM has 3 tiers of parking that are based on availability of spaces for that part of campus. Blue Parking - $66/month, Yellow Parking $25/month and Orange parking $18/month 4 - U-M can encourage more flexible parking payment options. UM already offers a per-use parking permits for their lots and structures for people that don't come to work everyday or only use UM lots infrequently. 5 - U-M can adopt a salary-scaled parking system. Why should one person's car cost them less to park. What other utilities work like this? When people park at a meter, do you think a pizza delivery person should pay less then a doctor parked in the space next to them? Should somebody's water or electric or phone bill cost less because they make less money than their neighbor? What type of research was done when writing this article?

Phillip Farber

Sat, Sep 3, 2011 : 9:37 p.m.

&quot;What type of research was done when writing this article?&quot; Well, you could start here: <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>

5c0++ H4d13y

Mon, Aug 29, 2011 : 2:19 p.m.

God there are so many problems with this I don't even know where to start. You totally lost me on the sliding scale based on income. How does that solve the parking problem at all?


Mon, Aug 29, 2011 : 2:56 p.m.

It let's them eat cake, that's how and isn't that the most important thing?


Mon, Aug 29, 2011 : 3:34 a.m.

Craig L. asks: &quot;When in your mind Mr. Batterman did the 'Interstate age\'&quot; end? I say: &quot;Relax. Joel likely meant to write &quot;the end of the Interstate-as-sole-means-of-transportation era.&quot;


Mon, Aug 29, 2011 : 1:50 p.m.

@Halter um, what fantasy world are YOU living in? I live out by Arborland and bike to work at the Medical Campus, and the #4 bus is always full of commuters from Ypsilanti. So I don't find it ludicrous at all.


Mon, Aug 29, 2011 : 10:09 a.m.

Um, what fantasy world are you living in? For 98% of Ann Arbor the interstate world is the only world...those who live downtown can say whatever they want about transportation...for the rest of the city that dwells outside the 8 square blocks of downtown this is ludicrous.

George Gaston

Sun, Aug 28, 2011 : 7:22 p.m.

If you think that too much city money has been expended to date to stop this parking deck, please keep in mind that this project has not yet come before the city council for open public commentary and a vote by the council. This deal to build the university a parking deck, below the hospital and on a city park, was cobbled together behind closed doors in an attempt to stop the UofM from building its own parking deck/transportation center on its own property on Wall Street. In return, the UofM has said that it won't build on Wall Street - at this time. The cost to the city is just beginning. Its a bad deal for the city. The university gets a parking deck; the city loses a park, loses income, and takes on a lot of debt. Please go to the website: for more information


Sun, Aug 28, 2011 : 11:58 p.m.

And U of M will build that parking structure on Wall Street - it's just a matter of time and it's in their master plan for the Wall Street corridor.


Sun, Aug 28, 2011 : 6:35 p.m.

I find this article ludicrous. During my time there, I always felt that the U never treated employees well in regard to parking. When I started: &quot;I have to pay for parking?&quot; Why not just pay me less than what a permit costs and let me park for free. Over the years one thing that stood out in many depts that had the ability to collect revenues, parking, housing and the hospital they seemed very flush. Lots of staff, lots of support, office space, etc. Over the years as fees increased I wondered how much went to administration. &quot;First, U-M can stop subsidizing parking. Right now, U-M requires academic units to contribute $142 of the cost of each parking permit. Not paying people to park is a good way to avoid having to build more parking.&quot; What a stitch this guy is! Let's take a poll of UM employees and see what the gratitude/satisfaction level is by employees who believe they are being paid to park. All those years I was being paid to park when my payroll deductions made me think I was paying for parking. Given a chance to voice an opinion, I think most people would prefer to park closer to work rather than park in an outlying area and take a bus. As is the U already offers a choice to people who wish to do so and save a few dollars by buying the corresponding permits with various costs based on how remotely you wish to park. In the area of the hospital, there has always been a shortage of staff parking. Sometimes road rage ensues. To increase parking fees based on how close you park to your building sounds like class warfare to me. The only ones who will be able to afford it will be the highly paid. As is, those with uber salaries pay the same as those at the lower end and if there is a need for &quot;parking fee reform&quot; that is where it should come from, make parking fees the same financial hurt on each employee. That is already in place with the gold permits that are quite expensive. Hospital employees need better, closer parking

George Gaston

Sun, Aug 28, 2011 : 7:45 p.m.

The City of Ann Arbor already has a train station, it's on Depot Street, Accross from Casey's Tavern. It doesn't cost the city anything and it comes with a lot of FREE parking

Mr Blue

Sun, Aug 28, 2011 : 6:41 p.m.

The the U hospital should negotiate to buy land, use land they already have and pay for the parking structure themselves instead of on the backs of Ann Arbor taxpayers.


Sun, Aug 28, 2011 : 6:40 p.m.

To clarify, I wish to point out that those of you who oppose this project because of the issue of turning park land over for parking, I respect your opinion. My opinion here is separate from that and simply to illustrate the need for better closer parking for hospital employees. The park land issue deserves more debate and perhaps a ballot. If it fails the UM will find other land to building on like the space where lot M-29 is, very close to the proposed spot, but the city will have to come up with the train station.

Rita Mitchell

Sun, Aug 28, 2011 : 6:21 p.m.

This article raises the excellent challenge to University leaders to activate the sustainability program that it has endorsed by setting up an institute and recruiting faculty and students to pursue excellence to sustain our environment. Joel points out how the University can lead the way in green innovation. Cleaner air and less traffic congestion? Yes! Building yet another parking structure car-magnet: No. It's a step in the opposite direction. By the way, taxpayers are already paying for the planning and design of the parking structure as well as infrastructure changes (sewer, water, storm drains, a plan for a roundabout at Fuller/Glenn/Maiden Lane), as well as significant amounts of City staff time spent in parallel with consultants and the UM. Public funding exceeds over a million dollars to date. Is $44,000 per parking space really a city priority? See: Public meetings to date have been of the form in which a design of the project is presented in Powerpoint, followed by asking meeting attendees what color of brick or stone they would like for their parking structure. Questions were allowed, in writing, hardly a community conversation on planning. Only when people who attended the meetings rebelled, were the meeting &quot;rules&quot; changed to allow requested time to speak and comment. The Fuller Road Park project started after the fact of a decision being made on site selection by consultant and staff &quot;stakeholders&quot;, again without inviting public input. In short, opportunities for public involvement in the decision of whether the project is a good idea have been limited. The decision on what happens to city park land should be determined by the owners of the property: citizen voters, as affirmed by the 2008 charter amendment to require a referendum on sale of park land. For more information, go to:

Ron Granger

Sun, Aug 28, 2011 : 4:49 p.m.

Indeed, it seems the height of folly for the city council to give away our park land for a parking structure, and put taxpayers on the hook for a student parking structure that should be a U of M project. If we are going to give up our park land to the U of M (!!), taxpayers should be making money on the project; not paying.


Sun, Aug 28, 2011 : 4:47 p.m.

I can say from personal experience that there are not enough orange permit spaces on North Campus. I have driven around for more than 20 minutes before without being able to find a spot in either the Hubbard or the Huron Parkway lot. These spots are around $60 for the year, so a great option to save time riding the bus and save on rent. You can argue if it is money well spent by Umich but I know that $60 a year is a bargain to save myself from a minimum of 5 hours of bus riding a week.

Marilyn Wilkie

Sun, Aug 28, 2011 : 3:37 p.m.

As a recently retired U of M employee I could never understand why some people chose to pay $500 (or more) per year to park, while, even then, having to arrive an hour before work to get one of those desirable spaces. I worked with a woman who said she had a fight with another employee over a parking space in the Fuller Road lot. She ended up ramming her car into the other woman's car and was proud of it! I never felt that I wanted to pay my employer for a parking spot. My choice was to leave my home near Dexter, drive to the Miller Park &amp; Ride, board the bus (for free), chat with my bus buddies, and arrive in plenty of time for my 8:00 am shift. I arrived at work relaxed and not stressed out over traffic or trying to find a place to park. Worked great for me. More U of M folks should consider it. I do like the idea of charging for parking according to ability to pay. More outlots should be opened like the Miller Park &amp; Ride.

Stupid Hick

Sun, Aug 28, 2011 : 2:51 p.m.

Next thing you know, some yahoo will suggest that tuition could be lowered, if only U-M employees could be made pay rent on their offices and share in the cost of office supplies.

Mr Blue

Sun, Aug 28, 2011 : 2:22 p.m.

All rail lines should be located along major interstate routes. The basic infrastructure is already there, Rail can easily make connections to roadways along the route. At one time, maybe a hundred years ago, the Huron River Valley was a good location for rail. Now the Huron River is far more valuable as a beautiful natural resource than it is a commuter transit corridor.

Mr Blue

Sun, Aug 28, 2011 : 6:23 p.m.

Right, Like there is any semblance of a serious grade along I-94. Come on, give the intelligent people a break and stop making excuses. There is a huge public rights of way along every major interstate. Everyone knows that the existing old rail lines are in a constant need of repair. Why not do it once, do it right and do it for the future.

Basic Bob

Sun, Aug 28, 2011 : 2:54 p.m.

There is another reason rail lines are located in valleys - lower grades. In hillier areas, the rivers, railroads, and interstates do run together. At this point it would be nearly impossible to relocate a major rail line in southern Michigan on a whim. The right of way does not exist for it. That is what prevents direct rail service to the Detroit Metro airport.

Mr Blue

Sun, Aug 28, 2011 : 2:18 p.m.

Do not fear. The UM and the City will remain undeterred in their quest of free publicly owned property for a taxpayer funded parking structure and an unnecessary train station regardless of research and facts.


Sun, Aug 28, 2011 : 2:01 p.m.

Great article! One additional cost never mentioned/contemplated is the toll all the construction traffic takes on the local roads. I wonder how much damage the Library Lot construction traffic has done and where the money will come from to fix it? The city's road budget? I hope all the bridges leading to Fuller park are not equally damaged as they are much more expensive to repair.

Jennifer Eshelman

Sun, Aug 28, 2011 : 1:05 p.m.

Just a quick note that many of the strategies mentioned in this article are already implemented by the U. Different parking lots on campus do have different price tiers, with the most expensive being nearly reserved parking spaces and the lease expensive being park and ride options (<a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>. Also, staff are not required to purchase a parking permit. Those faculty/staff who wish to normally commute to campus via city bus (which is free for all University people thanks to U subsidy), bike, or walk, but which to have ad hoc option to drive on rainy days can purchase daily parking permits. While I agree that a scaled parking fee structure to assist those staff who are paid less is a worthy effort; I think we can agree that increasing the access to parking is unlikely to deal with the parking crunch, which seems to be the primary goal of your article.

Craig Lounsbury

Sun, Aug 28, 2011 : 12:48 p.m.

It read good till I got to &quot;train station&quot; and &quot;made sense in the Interstate era&quot;. (note the past tense) When in your mind Mr. Batterman did the &quot;Interstate age&quot; end? Because in my world it hasn't ended.


Sun, Aug 28, 2011 : 12:10 p.m.

Joel, I thought you made a lot of good points and I hope the higher-ups in the University pay attention. I take exception to your fifth point, because to me it's &quot;only fair&quot; that a parking spot has equal value to everyone. Someone's ability to pay does not change the actual value of the parking space. Using your Michigan Stadium parking example, the spots at properties are based on what is fair given the property's proximity to the Stadium, not on the type of car (e.g. Chevy or Mercedes) that the owner is driving.


Sun, Aug 28, 2011 : 11:36 a.m.

Good column Joel. I would be interested to read a column by you or others in your dept regarding urban planning issues for downtown Ann Arbor. I would also be interested to read an architectural student's opinions on the poor architecture in this town. Maybe a top 10 ugliest buildings list. I wish the city of AA would take advantage of having these experts at this great university right down the street.