By: Cora Dunnwald, News Crew Member
The No. 1 complaint the Iowa State Parking Division gets is all about the price; it all costs too much. However, the director of parking claims the department is widely misunderstood.
Sam Minier is a student at Iowa State who has collected numerous parking tickets through his years at ISU. Minier said he understands the pricing to some extent but isn’t the biggest fan of the pricing. “From the perspective of my bank account, I hate how high they are,” he said. Minier explains that at his pay rate, it would take about 5 or 6 hours to pay off a ticket. While he doesn’t appreciate the price of the tickets, Minier understands why the pricing may be so high. “I can see it as a deterrent,” he said.
Mark Miller, the director of parking, shares the same viewpoint as Minier. Miller recounts raising ticket prices for reserved spots from $30 to $50. “We raised the fines $20, and the number of tickets we wrote dropped about 6,000 tickets,” he said. Miller provided numbers of citations within the past five years, and his data shows a steady decline, as shown by this graph to the right. The past two years have shown a decline of over 6% each of the years. “It made people more compliant…as we raised things to make people more compliant the number of tickets we have written has dropped,” Miller said.
Miller also pointed out the price difference between ISU’s parking and the other universities. “My peer institutions, especially the Big 12 or Iowa are going, how can your rates be so low?” Miller said. Miller showed a chart of the Big 12 schools’ parking prices compared to Iowa State’s. According to the chart provided, ISU is among the lowest. The University of Iowa charges students nearly double for the same permits. To add to this, Miller claims that the parking at Iowa State is a lot better than U of I’s. “Some transfer students are surprised they can even park at the stadium,” he said. “They have to park even farther away.”
Miller said one of the biggest misconceptions about the parking department is that part of their revenue comes from tuition money. This is far from the truth. “We don’t get any of the state or tuition dollars; we have to generate that money to keep the lots in good condition.” Miller said. The ISU Parking Department gets 100% of its revenue from permits, citations, meters and other services offered. Part of the parking department’s job is to maintain lots, and this revenue is an integral part.
This fact often changes student’s minds about the parking department. Zachary Phipps, a current ISU student, changed his opinion with this information. “Yeah, that makes a lot more sense,” he said.
However, Phipps had another issue with the department. He claimed there’s “no parking.” This is a complaint that Miller has heard often. He said it’s not so much that there is not enough parking, but it just isn’t close enough.“We haven’t run out of staff parking, we haven’t run out of student parking, but it may be farther away than people want to park,” Miller said. There have been countless arguments to build a parking ramp, but Miller has an argument to counter that. “We looked at building a ramp on the west side of campus, well for 700 stalls at the time it was going to be $28 million,” he said. Building this ramp would mean increasing the costs of permit prices and/or ticket prices. Miller understands this would only upset the student and faculty more.
All of the questions and problems seem to come down to the money. So the question is: where does all that money go?
According to the official yearly fiscal report, The Parking Department’s total income is just short of $5 million for the year 2019. Aside from routine payments, a lot of the money goes into several different projects. “We help fund CyRide to about $300,000 a year, for the orange route for more access for people who can park for free at the Iowa State Center,” Miller said. He also explained they help fund a reduced fee for faculty on the CyRide. The net revenue of The Parking Department averages about $986,000. Miller said these funds are put into unspecified capital projects.