Commuter students face challenges with extended meter hours, ASU lots downtown

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Erin Regan, a senior studying English and Journalism, pays for her parking space on the northeast corner of Central Avenue and Fillmore Street. (Bryce Bozadjian/DD)
Erin Regan, a senior studying English and Journalism, pays for her parking space on the northwest corner of Central Avenue and Fillmore Street. (Bryce Bozadjian/DD)

ASU student Hailey Rose was in class on a Monday afternoon when she received an unpleasant surprise to start off her week: Her car, which she parked in a non-ASU lot in downtown Phoenix, had been “booted” because of a parking ticket. It would cost her $300 to have the boot taken off.

The Global Health senior commutes from the Tempe campus but, without a parking pass for ASU’s Downtown Phoenix campus, she must pay to park in a non-ASU lot or at a meter, or find areas of free parking around the city.

“First of all, it’s too expensive to get a permit and then it’s cheaper for me to pay for parking every day than it is for me to get a permit,” Rose said. “But then when you pay for parking every day, you’re way more likely to get a ticket, I feel like, because you’ll forget, or I’ve entered in the wrong space before.”

Rose is among many students who commute to the Downtown Phoenix campus, and has expressed concerns about the current parking situation and impending changes to parking in the downtown area. Changes, including the extended parking-meter hours and upcoming increased rates, could lead to more difficulty for students to park off-campus.

The city announced in June 2014 that it would implement changes in the hours for parking meters, and that rates could reach $4 an hour in high-demand areas.

Monica Hernandez, a spokeswoman for Phoenix’s Street Transportation Department, said the city wants to increase turnover in parking and encourage use of public transportation.

“It’s really intended to create turnover,” Hernandez said. “So the last change we implemented was the increase in the hours of enforcement … the intent is to increase turnover and we also want to encourage people to use transit and come into the downtown area.”

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The parking-meter changes began on Aug. 18, when the hours for meters were extended. Enforcement of parking meters rates, which was previously from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., was extended until 10 p.m., including weekends and holidays.

Meter rates have remained at $1.50 per hour and coin-only meters have been reduced to a rate of $1 per hour.

Hernandez said the city is still looking at the use of meters to determine what pricing changes will be made and where those changes will be implemented. She said the city is also looking into creating a pay-by-phone system and integrating more technology into payment methods for meters.

“At this point, we are going to look at the use of meters and try to look at what makes sense in terms of pricing,” Hernandez said. “If we don’t have a high demand for a parking meter, we will look into lowering the price of that meter. Now, in areas of high demand, we will price to match that demand.”

Corina Tapscott, vice president of services at ASU’s Undergraduate Student Government Downtown, was one of the students who voiced her concern about the parking changes to the city council in June. Tapscott said she, along with other USGD members, gathered feedback from students to present to city council, and that graduate students were particularly concerned with having to pay for parking during the newly extended meter hours.

“One of the concerns that we heard from graduate students was it seems like graduate students have later evening classes and they have longer classes,” Tapscott said, adding that the city extended the maximum parking time to six hours Monday through Thursday in the zone around ASU to accommodate students in long classes.

Tapscott said the city temporarily capped the meter rates in the parking zone around the Downtown Phoenix campus at $1.50 per hour, and agreed to discuss any changes with students before officially making a decision.

RELATED: With new parking-meter rules, exceptions made for meters around ASU campus

More than 11,500 students are enrolled at the Downtown Phoenix campus, with approximately 1,200 of those students living on campus, according to ASU’s website. Many other students who are enrolled at other campuses, like Rose, take classes at the downtown campus.

Plenty of commuter students take the light rail or the intercampus shuttle, which had 455,274 total riders on the Tempe/Downtown Phoenix/West campus route, during the 2013-2014 academic year, but many still prefer to drive.

ASU-controlled parking lots, with the exception of the farthest lot, have been at full occupancy for both the 2013-2014 and 2014-2015 academic years, according to Shereen Shaw, a communications specialist with ASU Business and Finance.

ASU has nine areas of designated parking around downtown Phoenix. Prices for parking permits range from $210 per academic year to $780 per academic year. The lots with the lowest parking tag cost, the East Garage and the Fourth Avenue lot at $210 and $280, respectively, are the farthest from campus. The Fourth Avenue lot does not allow overnight parking.


Map by Jayson Chesler. All data courtesy of ASU Parking & Transit.

Shaw said parking tag prices are dependent on the assigned lot’s proximity to the central campus. There are 1,092 parking spaces available at ASU lots around downtown Phoenix, and 1,001 parking permits were sold for those lots for the 2014-2015 academic year.

But some students are willing to risk fines because they find that parking permits are too expensive if they are only coming to the Downtown Phoenix campus for one class. Rose said that the amount she has paid to park downtown, along with the parking fees she has accumulated, is likely equivalent to the cost of a parking pass.

She has spent more than $400 during the first semester on parking, parking tickets and the boot.

“(The $300) I probably could’ve bought a parking pass with,” Rose said. “But then you can’t really get a space, like a lot of places are full. I don’t really know about downtown, but in Tempe they sell out in days.”

Shaw said university officials have recognized there is a need for more parking options around the Downtown Phoenix campus. ASU Parking and Transit Services took the campus’ growing enrollment, the upcoming move of the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law to downtown Phoenix and the master plan for the campus into consideration when looking at parking needs downtown.

“(Parking and Transit Services) has had preliminary meetings with other university-planning and real-estate offices to identify for potential property construction of parking units or opportunities to lease from privately owned spaces,” she said.

The Arizona Center for Law and Society, which will open on the Downtown Phoenix campus in the fall 2016 semester, will include a two-level underground garage with 160 spaces, but they have been designated as faculty parking spaces, according to Shaw. The building’s design and inclusion of parking was not a decision by Parking and Transit Services, but by the ASU Capital Programs Management Group.

Rose said the simplest solution for students taking a class or two once or twice a week at the Downtown Phoenix campus would be a free ASU parking lot.

“If you’re taking a class downtown, they should have a parking lot you can park in for free,” Rose said.

Editor’s Note: Erin Regan, pictured above, was a former contributor for Downtown Devil. She did not know the photographer and did not contribute to the reporting of this story.

Contact the reporter at pkunthar@asu.edu

Correction Dec. 5, 2014: A previous version of this article misquoted some words in Corina Tapscott’s quote. The quote did not alter the meaning of Tapscott’s quote. It has been updated to reflect the words Tapscott actually said.

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