A couple of weeks ago, the IBJ reportedÂ that Indiana University is looking into a long term lease for its parking spaces on the main campus in Bloomington as well as its Indianapolis IUPUI campus. The column indicates that a request for proposal will be offered.
On the surface, it seems like anÂ initiativeÂ that could yield significant dollars to the bottom line for Indiana University while removing the overhead of operating existing and planned parking facilities. Additionally, and as the IBJ article points out, higher parking rates could make using public transit more attractive, especially for IUPUI which hosts a large commuter student body. Currently, both Bloomington and Indianapolis campuses operate dedicated transit services for shuttling students to and from far flung lots or student housing.
However, a recent post regarding a similar deal at Ohio State University made it’s way to my email. The post states the following,
“Under the new contract, any action the university takes that could reduce the demand for parking spaces would constitute a â€œcompensation eventâ€ that requires them to compensate the parking company for their lost revenue.”
The post implies that any transit related services that the university partakes in could be construed as reducing demand and result in potential compensation to said private bidder. The ramifications of such a clause are damning in their intent when viewed through the lens of an active transportation advocate. Would future student body growth be tied to proportional gains in automobile usage by students?
Furthermore, how can we hope to reduce the daily traffic jams generated by IUPUI’s 30k student body, again largely commuter based, if a 30 to 50 year plan is based upon current traffic models? One could make the case that if IUPUI chose not to improve current shuttle offerings or fund further improvements they could rely instead upon city or regional based transit efforts; those could conceivably still progress without penalty to the university.
With a deal not yet complete, all current talk is simply hyperbole. However, as an active transportation advocate, it pains me greatly to think that ourÂ publiclyÂ funded educational institutes could be hedging their bottom line on parking. It is my fear that a long term lease would hamstring the university into advocating for current or increased usage of parking to stave off “compensation events” such as those OSU may face. Moreover, subjecting an urban campus to 30 years of automobile based policy is quite simply, poor taste. While the optimist in me hopes that urban friendly policy wins out, the pessimist in me fears that the architects of this deal have dollar signs on their radar instead.