Parking and Transit Services provides more than pricey parking tickets, expensive tags and headaches.
Known as an "auxiliary," Parking and Transit Services, like the athletic department, is self-funded, receiving no funding from the state government. Its autonomy ensures that all money from Nashville to UT is funneled solely toward new buildings and direct education.
But unlike UT athletics, Parking Services has no generous donors. On a space-limited and urban campus, Parking Services brings in 86 percent of its $12.6 million yearly operating budget from selling parking permits, selling parking spots for special events and collecting fees for the new bus system.
The annual salaries, payments on loans for existing parking garages and contracts for various services make up more than 70 percent of the yearly expenses. Parking Services permits rake in less than $5.5 million a year, and tickets make up only 10 percent of revenue. Mark Hairr, director of Parking and Transit Services, said the number of citations issued has decreased by 20,000 during the last two years.
In addition, the number of parking spaces available to students has increased during the past two fiscal years. Hairr said the increased parking availability is directly related to the decrease in citations.
"We've made more student parking available," Hairr said. "We've leased student parking over on Poplar Street from the Knoxville Convention Center on the east side of the Hill."
In an urban campus bordered by a river, a residential neighborhood and a bustling downtown, Hairr emphasized that parking will always pose challenges. To help cope with those challenges, his office is currently planning a new parking garage on the site of the former Stokely Athletic Center. Hairr predicted demolition will begin next semester, and construction will conclude in summer 2016.
However, parking garages have gotten more expensive in recent years, Associate Dean for Student Life Jeff Cathey said. In the past, spaces have cost about $15,000 a spot. Now, each spot costs around $20,000, giving the planned 1,000-space garage a roughly $20 million price tag. Parking Services must finance the construction by saving revenue and taking out loans.
Given that faculty and staff must also pay for their parking, Cathey noted that sometimes students must simply accept the inconveniences of owning a car.
Cathey said there will always be difficulties in an urban environment and even suggested an alternative solution.
"If we were going to have less students bring cars and use more public transportation," Cathey said, "it would be a win all the way around for the state of the campus and sustainability."
As proof of sustainability, Hairr cited the 55 percent jump in bus system riders over the previous fiscal year. This year's largest complaint has come from the Neyland Express, which often has too many riders to and from Sorority Village.
"We've had to put another bus out there to alleviate the load," Hairr said. "That's a good problem to have."