RYAN LOVELACE | Managing editor
Most Butler University students will pay more for the same parking spaces available last year, despite the university’s expectation to spend tens of millions of dollars less than it originally planned.
Butler officials implemented a new parking system without much prior input from those directly impacted by the price increase.
“We didn’t spend a lot of time getting feedback from students, faculty or staff on the pricing,” said Bruce Arick, vice president for finance and administration. “Had we done it during the academic year, we would have had more time and spent more time talking with folks about the pricing aspects.”
Instead, most Butler students will pay nearly triple last year’s price, which Butler froze before last school year.
“I know people are concerned about the freeze issue,” said chief of staff Ben Hunter. “But once the city got involved, it’s one of those issues where we gave a lot of thought and care into it.”
Assistant police chief Bill Weber said the City of Indianapolis telling Butler to create more parking—particularly greater visitor parking capacity for events—represents a huge driving factor of the new parking plan. Visitors will gain parking on main campus and in two new lots on west campus across the canal.
Arick said campus officials received the directive to begin work on this new plan from the Board of Trustees in May. And in July, Butler officials announced they had lifted the two-year freeze on parking permit prices.
Butler officials condensed the project into three months instead of six or nine months because the project had a fall 2013 completion date, Arick said.
‘B’ permit parking for residents of Ross Hall, Schwitzer Hall and Residential College will cost $200. Students living off campus will pay $95 to park in commuter spaces. Students who want to pay the same $75 parking fee as last year must park in the new ‘I’ Lot.
This summer, the Board of Trustees indefinitely suspended its plans for a $45 million parking garage that would have included residential and retail space in favor of an approximately $4 million plan featuring a long-term parking lot.
Butler sold all of the B permits available on Monday, according to Weber. Students who wish to purchase a B permit will now have to purchase a permit for the I Lot.
This fall, Butler instituted parking permit caps equivalent to the number of spaces available for each permit with the exception of A and C permits for faculty and commuters.
The 400-spot I Lot, located adjacent to the intramural fields on west campus, will cost approximately $16,500 less per space than the proposed parking garage would have cost, according to Butler’s website.
Arick said $41 million or so saved does not translate into cash on hand. Rather, the cost will not fill up Butler’s debt capacity. This may free Butler up to rehabilitate residence and dining halls and work towards creating a building for the College of Business within five to 10 years, he said.
Butler did not complete the long-term parking lot before many students began arriving on campus this weekend. The university has asked students who purchased long-term parking permits to leave their cars in the overflow section of the Hinkle Fieldhouse parking lot until the new lot opens. The I Lot, which will be the largest lot on campus dedicated to one specific permit, should open for student use this week.
The idea for a long-term parking lot came from the Student Government Association’s recommendation to President Danko last April.
Craig Fisher, SGA president, said he thinks if he and other current and former SGA members had not suggested a long-term parking plan, that all students would have had $200 permits this academic year.
Butler projects an 83 percent increase in revenue off of student parking permits, and a 66 percent increase from all permits. Parking revenue is expected to increase nearly $200,000 for a total of $496,200.
Last year, Butler allocated 843 permits for ‘B’ spaces. This year Butler planned to allocate 443 permits for B spaces and 400 permits for ‘I’ spaces.
Similarly, 75 permits that were given for commuter spaces have become ‘UT’-permitted spaces for students living in University Terrace.
Butler expects to earn more than $82,000 by raising permit prices and repurposing spaces.
Even if the lot opens this week, it could be just the beginning of increasing parking woes. Weber said he knows adjustments will be needed.
“If I’m wrong and we have a greater demand for B permit parking, then we’ll have to look at ‘OK where can I rob Peter to pay Paul?’” Weber said.
Hunter said Butler is prepared to call game-time audibles in a month or two if need be, but said he was proactive in letting the community know in advance.
“We put it out on Twitter,” Hunter said. “That was the intent of the email I sent out, to tell students that, ‘Hey this is coming. This is what you need to do.’”
But explaining where students may park on campus will undoubtedly take more than 140 characters. Weber said hundreds of signs across campus would begin getting replaced this week. Students should look to the parking map first and foremost.
“You see a sign on campus? Odds are it’s going to be changed,” Weber said.
Hunter said officers will be very forgiving. They will issue warnings instead of citations as the parking situation gets ironed out, and he asked that students call BUPD with questions.
A campus-wide email from Weber said that citation enforcement will begin Sept. 6. Weber said he would still write tickets for flagrant violations, and students with ‘I’ permits that routinely park in ‘B’ lots could recieve a parking ticket.
Whenever the ‘I’ Lot opens, students will notice additional security measures for the long-term parking lot. Ten high-intensity LED lights will light the path to the lot.
Five code blue phones will be added to allow people to call 911 in case of an emergency. Students will use their student ID cards to enter and exit through two ‘I’ Lot gates. Another gate will be placed at the Lester Street entrance of west campus. Additional patrols will canvass the area, including two new parking officers.
Twelve cameras will be placed in the ‘I’ Lot and along the path leading to it. Pan-tilt-zoom cameras, 360-degree cameras and cameras pointed in one direction will be mounted on light poles and code blue phones throughout the area, as part of Butler’s emerging camera plan.
“Right now, my priority is to grab real estate and then, over time, focus it down more and more and more until, eventually, I have cameras everywhere,” Weber said.
Weber added that while the ‘I’ Lot will be the only lot with cameras this year, Butler hopes to change that in the future.
“Chief Hunter wants cameras all over this campus for student safety,” Weber said, “but it costs money, and like anything else, how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.”
Additional security measures may alleviate the concerns of student parking in the long-term parking lot.
However, residents of Lester Street will have approximately 400 new neighbors using their street as a main thoroughfare.
Hunter said the new parking plan had the unanimous consent of Rocky Ripple’s town board, and Butler will resurface Lester Street and 51st Street.
Going forward, Arick said a parking structure could be considered if Butler builds an academic building or residential structure that eliminates parking on main campus.
Arick said students could probably expect parking prices to increase 3 to 5 percent in the future.
The next parking committee meeting on Sept. 12, at 11 a.m. in Atherton Union 201.