The long-anticipated merger of the University and Medical Center parking systems will take place as scheduled on July 1, but transportation officials said that date is of little practical significance, as meaningful changes will take place further down the road.
Bill Baker, parking manager for the Medical Center, said it could be six months to a year before the new parking system is a "truly functional combination." Registration for parking permits will remain separate this year, for instance, and any rate changes will not go into effect until the start of the new parking cycle.
"Bringing these two entities together is not something that we're going to flip the switch, and all of the sudden it's combined," Baker said.
Executive Vice President Tallman Trask said the merger of parking operations will occur July 1, with financial arrangements to be completed Sept. 1 for tax reasons.
A new parking office in the basement of the former Facilities Management building off Science Drive could also be ready by September at the earliest, said Vice President for Auxiliary Services Joe Pietrantoni.
Transportation officials suggested, however, that most planning is still in the embryonic stages.
"July 1 we will start looking at those things: Who does what, who goes in what role, how we're serving our customers," said Cathy Reeve, director of parking and transportation for the University. "We're going to go about our respective businesses for renewing [passes]. Following that, we'll start to plan for next year."
Reeve said setting uniform standards for maintenance, enforcement and deck operations has proved challenging. In addition, the University and Medical Center use different software systems to allocate permits and perform other routine functions, and these systems will have to be made compatible before the parking systems can truly be considered as one.
"We're not all oranges and oranges right now in how we do things, like in pricing our parking lot," Reeve said. "That's what we'll spend this year doing-seeing how we can have a lot more continuity in our operations. And it's not going to happen overnight."
Administrators said when the merger actually takes place, the new combined system will benefit everyone.
"What happens is, there will be a whole lot more choices. Lower-cost options for pretty much everybody," Trask said.
Problems at overlap points between the University and Medical Center parking systems will be eliminated, theoretically, in the new system. In addition, more options will mean that people will have more flexibility in choosing between a more expensive prime location or a cheaply priced permit for a less proximate lot.
Trask said there will be no losers with the merger. "The hope is for next year that out-of-pocket, nobody sees an increase of more than 5 percent."
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