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GPSC sounds off on parking, undergrad preference

The 23 members of the Graduate and Professional Student Council who attended Tuesday's meeting expressed shock and surprise when they learned that parking costs for them would almost double in some areas, while the cost for faculty and undergraduates would see relatively minimal increases.

Transportation and Parking Committee Co-chair Zach Schafer broke what he called bad news for graduate and professional students in a presentation entitled "Parking and Transportation 2003-2004: It's not getting better."

Schafer, a graduate student in the cell and molecular biology program, had met with Director of Parking and Transportation Catherine Reeve Tuesday afternoon to discuss the changes, primarily concerning permits and the loss of perimeter parking.

The estimates Reeve gave Schafer would be for parking permits activated in August. The three permit zones available to graduate and professional students would include proximate lots, which Reeve estimated at $300 to $360, up from $222; premium lots, estimated at $700 to $800, up from $444; and remote lots, estimated at $110 to $130, up from $90.

Last year, most graduate students only paid $85 for parking.

The enormous increase resulted in part from the proposed 5 percent real increase in permit prices.

The announcement came on the heels of revelations about a new payment plan for the parking garage that is being built behind the Bryan Center--a plan which will also increase permit prices.

GPSC President Rob Saunders explained that there was a rule removed about five years ago that stated if a University building was destroyed and parking was also removed, the building would pay for new parking through the building budget. While there was enough money left over from these budgets to cover the parking expenses for five years, parking and transportation ran out of that money to pay for the new garage. Therefore, for every permit sold this fall, $65 will go toward paying for the garage.

The committee complained that, in the plan, graduate and professionals students were not assigned parking spaces in the garage, while undergraduates were allotted 50 spaces.

Saunders, a third-year physics student, gave a rough estimate of the impact on graduate and professional students over the next 15 years.

"The deck will cost approximately $18 million, $10 million of which is put on the parking and transportation debt services," he said. "That is $700,000 every year for the next 15 years."

Tobin Freid, a fourth-year student in the Nicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences and GPSC student life co-chair, said the difference in price would only prompt more parking problems, since a minimal cost increase would not sufficiently discourage undergraduates from bringing a car to school.

"They have the least need and the least cost," Freid said.

In addition, many students expressed great concern about the immediate future of parking when the Duke University Road lots close in May. Currently, graduate and professional students have 443 of the 784 available spots in these lots, yet Schafer said he was not told of any plan for the months between May and August, when the new permits would be issued. Many graduate and professional students remain on campus during the summer to conduct research.

Students also worried that the lack of bicycle lanes and an end to the bus system that formerly extended from LaSalle Street to the University would make getting to campus even harder.

Schafer encouraged representatives to pass the news onto their respective departments, e-mail Executive Vice President Tallman Trask and "fill up his mailbox."

Many assembly members were roused when Jandy Hanna--GPSC secretary and a graduate student in biological anthropology and anatomy--suggested a strike over the parking situation. She cited the labor union strike that began Monday at Yale University. However, students were divided over whether to strike if the parking problem were not remedied in the near future.

"While Cathy Reeve, in her parking office, is trying her best [to remedy this situation], the underlying problem is with the administration," Schafer said. "I assume they are not going to ignore these problems.... If it doesn't improve, we may have to take more serious action, but we need to wait and see."

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