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Firm evaluates parking options

While UNM does not have enough parking on the main campus to accommodate commuter students, a national parking-consulting firm recommended that the University maintain its emphasis on park-and-ride accommodations.

Campus Parking Management Associates presented a 10-year parking plan to the Board of Regents Finance and Facilities Committee Monday. The survey and an analysis performed during the past two years cost between $20,000-$25,000 and were commissioned by Julie Weaks, the UNM interim vice president of business and finance.

The presentation centered on the future of parking at the University and concluded that, while improvements could be made in the parking system, the University's large commuter-student population will still need to park at the north and south campuses unless 25,000 parking spaces are added to the main campus.

Dan Keller, a consultant for Campus Parking Management Associates, said that despite new technology, parking is not a simple problem to solve because of the engrained emphasis on individuals driving to work.

"It's just part of our society and a lot of people's way of life," he said. "We've found that, unless it is mandated by state law like it is in Southern California, people are just not likely to carpool. We also found that improvements in public transportation are not likely to provide significant change in the way people can get to campus."

Keller said UNM has provided adequate parking on the main campus for faculty, staff, residents, guests and the handicapped, but an inadequate number of spaces are available for commuter students.

"The spaces we defined as adequate are not always the best ones or the closest ones to the building, but they are spaces one would have a reasonable expectation of finding," he said. "The University has provided adequate parking for the commuter students on the south and north campuses, allowing them to use the park-and-ride system."

He said the University bus system works well, but expects parking on the main campus to remain a problem because of construction projects that will eliminate some parking spaces and the growing demand for parking spaces.

As a result, Keller said the University has a variety of options to address the growing need for parking and the reduction of spaces as more buildings are constructed on the main campus.

He said that with one exception, his firm strongly recommends that the University only use a parking structure as a last resort because of its cost and permanent Keller said the University can expect to pay between $7,000-$9,000 per space and would be a capital expenditure of between $17.5-$22.5 million.

"It's just not a cost-effective solution with high prices and maintenance," he said. "You would have to increase the cost of parking permits to about $135 to $165."

Keller said the city reservoir north of the Central Avenue and Redondo Road entrance would be the only area where he would recommend a parking structure because it would offset parking lost near Popejoy Hall for the Architecture and Planning Building.

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He said the temporary lease of the Bob Turner parking lot on the southwest corner of the University and Lomas Boulevards intersection is the easiest solution, adding 500 spaces.

Keller also urged the regents to continue acquisition of land north of Lomas Boulevard, where the University has some pockets of land.

Regent Richard Toliver asked Keller how cost-effective his acquisition plan is and Keller said that it was just a possible long-term solution that the regents should consider.

Keller said his company had not looked into the cost of buying the land.

He said his company talked to students during the past year, and they suggested lower Johnson Field south of the Student Residence Center as a possible parking solution.

"I know its not politically correct to suggest leveling a beautiful green area, but it is just one of the student suggestions and would not involve the main part of Johnson Field," Keller said. "This is the point where the University has to decide whether the goal is to provide more parking for commuters or provide a better atmosphere for those students once they're here."

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