Students, staff and faculty will be picking up the $35 million tab to fix the University of Hawaii Manoa’s aging parking garage.
The UH Board of Regents on Thursday approved a six-year parking rate increase that will start in 2020 to finance safety repairs, including new guardrails and elevators at Manoa’s only parking structure.
None of that money will go into creating more parking stalls or a new garage on the Manoa campus.
The rate increase was opposed by some of the people who park in the 5,100 stalls on the campus, including the garage and surface lots, but university officials said the work can’t wait.
“We need to move ahead so that we address this before we have a crisis of health and safety in our parking,” said UH President David Lassner.
Rates will increase each year for six years starting in 2020.
By 2025, employees parking on surface lots closest to buildings will be paying $1,299 annually. They’ll be paying about $924 to park in the garage.
Students are looking at paying about $702 annually to park in the garage in 2025, an increase of about 65 percent over today’s price of $426. The rate for student motorcycle and moped riders will rise to $225.
Visitor parking will go up to $6 an hour or $25 for a day pass over six years.
Raising the parking fees was the only legal way to get funding for the repairs, said regent Simeon Acoba. Parking at UH Manoa is managed by its Department of Commuter Services, which has to be self-sustaining according to UH’s transportation management plan.
“Philosophically, (repairs) should be funded by parking users,” said UH Vice President of Administration Jan Gouveia.
Still, other options were considered, including building a new parking garage through a public-private partnership. But that could have cost about $140 million, and the university would have still faced the need for repairs to the existing structure.
The parking garage actually needs $100 million worth of repairs, according to a study conducted by SP Plus.
The option the university took, and the regents approved, was to extend the life of the garage by 15 to 20 years and then address any more repairs later.
The work will be done in two phases and will be financed by a $35 million bond paid off with revenue from the rate increases.
The last rate increase was in 2011, and this is only the second rate increase in more than 20 years. However, there have been other efforts to raise rates.
In 2012, hearings on a five-year rate increase were cancelled due to legal concerns regarding how rate increases were communicated to the public.
UH sent then-Gov. Neil Abercrombie a request for a public hearing on new increases in March 2014. But he signed it after the Board of Regents would have been able to approve rate increases in time for the next fiscal year.
The Department of Commuter Services made an error in projections for a rate increase in 2015 and a request for a public hearing had to be withdrawn.
“This is something that was recognized as needed as far back as 2011. And here we are in 2018 with the same problems from 2011, except worse and exacerbated,” Gouveia said.
The new parking rates are exasperating commuters, especially students.
Regents received more than 50 pages of testimony for Thursday’s meeting, much of it in opposition to the new parking rates.
One of those letters came from Jannah Lyn Dela Cruz, Manoa’s student government president, who said she opposed any parking rate increases.
“While Commuter Services shares the need to increase parking rates to improve our parking, we need to understand that students already experience a struggle with the current rates,” Deal Cruz wrote. “This is an issue that needs to be addressed, and could only be worsened by the approval of an increase.”
Jonathan Valdez, president of UH Manoa’s Graduate Student Organization, also opposed the rates.
Graduate assistants can’t buy any passes until being notified that they have jobs. However by that time, most of the student passes, which graduate assistants are also eligible to buy, are gone.
They’re often stuck with buying employee permits, which are more expensive, he said.
Repairs call for replacing the guardrails in Phase I of the work, which will cost about $10 million. Repairing the fire safety system will cost an estimated $1.5 million, while waterproofing and elevator replacement will cost $7 million and $5 million respectively.
Similar work will be done to another section of the garage in Phase II.
Those repairs are expected to start in 2020 and 2021. That means some parking spaces may be inaccessible.
Lassner said that he would convene a task force of students and staff to study campus transportation issues.
UH really has no solution to address longer-term parking issues. At the Oct. 3 meeting, Gouveia threw around the idea that the Honolulu rail project could help if it is ever extended to Manoa.
The regents passed the parking hikes with the caveat that Lassner initiate a transportation management plan.
One short term goal is to reduce the demand for parking by encouraging carpooling and public transportation, according to board documents.
“Ultimately what happens when you increase rates is you decrease use,” Regent Michael McEnerney said. “That’s partially what we’re trying to do here. Make the demand for the parking structure go down.”
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