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Minnesota State University, Mankato
Minnesota State University, Mankato

Performing Arts Center Parking Issues

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A secondary issue regarding the provision of convenient parking focuses on the need to provide parking for attendees to Theatre and Music events at Performing Arts and the soon-to-be completed Andreas Theatre. The Performing Arts center has 350 seats in the Recital Hall, 529 seats in the Ted Paul Theatre while the Andreas Theatre will have 225 seats. It is our understanding that concurrent performances, open rehearsals, etc. at these facilities could occur essentially any evening of the week and that many attendees are individuals from the community who may not necessarily be familiar with MSU's parking availability and/or policies. Individuals who find inadequate parking or parking difficulty in getting near the facility will likely opt for alternatives rather than come to the campus for all but the most desirable performances. The ability to direct these individuals to parking directly adjacent the venue in Lot 16 would certainly help the attractiveness of this facility.

At present, Lot 16 that is directly adjacent the Performing Arts Center and Andreas Theatre is shared among gold, purple and green permit holders. The current configuration of Lot 16 presently provides 141 gold spaces, 100 general purple spaces and 331 residence hall spaces (Dark Green Permit). These designated spaces plus a few other designated spaces provide a total capacity for the lot of 585 spaces.

The present permit system essentially "guarantees" a gold permit holder a parking space in their designated lot. Should all gold spaces be filled they have the option of taking an available purple slot but that the oversell rate is controlled to attempt to assure gold permit holders get gold. The purple permits are essentially a "hunting license" and spaces may or may not be available in a desired location

Given the seating capacity at the Performing Arts Center and the Andreas Theatre, it is clear that a significant schedule of events here during the week would likely strain the capacity of Lot 16 even allowing that many of the purple and or gold holders would have left by the time of many evening performances. The wild card is the number of spaces allocated for residence hall student vehicles. While we understand that presently a number of these are vacant during the evening hours when performances may be going on, there is the possibility that they may not be vacant because of a students work schedule or other activities. It should also be noted that not all attendees will drive a car when coming for a performance. Table 2 on page 2-9 demonstrates potential needs assuming varying availability of green permit spaces in Lot 16 consistent with a recent plan adopted by the Parking Advisory Committee for re-striping (increasing the capacity by some 35 spaces) and re-allocation of spaces in Lot 16. The number of purple permits would be reduced from ±100 to 35 permits and instead re-allocates these spaces to Green Permit holders (from 370 estimated currently to 457 fixed permits).

The table shown assumes 70% of the attendees come by car. The table shows that too high a proportion of residence hall students in Lot 16 would result in insufficient parking to accommodate patrons to the Andreas Theatre or Performing Arts performances. This is demonstrated by the higher ratio of patrons per car that could be required in order to accommodate the need.

For example, the table demonstrates the impact if performances were occurring in all three theatres the same evening. Under this scenario, given 70% of the patrons come by car and assuming that all 116 gold and 35 purple permit spaces were available and from 40% to 60% of the 457 designated green permit spaces. This shows that there would need to be an average of 1.82 to 2.32 people in each car that parked in the lot.

For any one venue alone, the table also shows that much lower ratio's of people per car would function adequately since obviously there would have to be an average of at least one person per car.

Assessment of Available Parking at Performing Arts Center Table 2

Another suggestion that would have as its goal reducing demand rather than increasing supply, would be to significantly raise parking rates for the residence halls students. Here the intent would be to increase the rates to a level comparable to what a gold permit holder pays since they are reaping essentially the same benefit, i.e. a guaranteed space 24 hours a day. While such measures will most certainly dissuade some students and thereby reduce the demand for parking it may do so at the expense of making the residence hall living less attractive. It may also penalize students who have a legitimate need for close parking to their residence hall who are working just to be able to pay for school. These students may work late hours and return home after either the regular bus service or the special nighttime shuttle bus finishes for the evening.

Another alternative suggested has been for students who have a legitimate need for such parking to be accommodated first with the close in parking. Those students who may have a car on campus but which is used more or less during the weekend only would only be accommodated with the adjacent parking after students who were working off-campus were provided for first. The "non-working" student overflow would instead be directed to the available remote parking and charged less accordingly. This option, we feel, would create a need to monitor students as to their work hours. The obvious questions that arise "What if a student stops working altogether after receiving their permit?" Or, "What happens if a student changes shifts and instead of working late is finished by 9:00 p.m. and therefore, typically could be back on campus before the shuttle finishes for the evening?"

A third option that we have seen applied elsewhere would be to increase the number of residence hall students on this part of campus who may park in Lot 16. Perhaps the current number of "guaranteed" spaces would be maintained with some additional number beyond this offered a "restricted" permit. Students who have these permits would pay a discounted rate for which they would agree on evenings that the performance attendance load is such that their spaces would be needed they would agree to park in one of the remote or some other designated lots for the evening. Notices could be placed via signage or flyers regarding significant productions in advance at the lot informing students that the parking spaces will be needed and that they need to move their vehicle by a designated time or face citations and/or towing. We would expect that performances would generally be completed prior to 11:30 p.m. after which, if the student desired, they could ride the existing night shuttle to retrieve their car back to the lot. Alternatively, they could elect to leave it in the remote lot (perhaps in a purple permit spot in lots 20, 21 or 22) overnight but would have to retrieve it by some specified time (perhaps 8:30 a.m.) the next morning to make these spaces available for the purple permit holders. The 8:30 moving deadline is based on an analysis of the enrolled student class schedules that showed that on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays particularly, that the peak enrollment begins with 9:00 a.m. classes. Therefore, by having these vehicles removed prior to 8:30 a.m. it would be expected that the purple permit holders would be accommodated. A graph showing the number of students registered in classes by time of day of day and day of week based on information provided by the registrars' office is on 2-12.

Obviously, for such aggravation, there would have to be a significant discount for these permit holder's who may be required to move their cars at various times during an academic term depending on the utilization of the theatres and recital halls.

However, we still see the same problem if many of these spaces were to be empty during the peak demand period of the day as students are off at jobs or errands. It could be difficult to justify the cost of developing additional parking if these spaces are sitting vacant.

There are several important points to realize regarding this suggestion.

  1. This is not intended to dissuade students from bringing cars on to campus but is a recognition that some students may not need such convenient access to their car all week and that close-in parking for all students is simply not possible without penalizing the theatre or other groups.
  2. For the parking discount some students who the majority of the time have access will accept a level of inconvenience at other times.
  3. Adequate, convenient parking to accommodate the Performing Arts Center and Andreas Theatre must be provided for these venues to be successful and for them to be desirable destinations of the community.
  4. Spaces sitting vacant may make it difficult to justify constructing new spaces.

As Table 2 suggested, one option has been to increase the proportion of green permit spaces in Lot 16. This is one of numerous suggestions as to how to provide for the residence hall students with parking needs since they cannot obviously be accommodated in the adjacent parking lots (13 and 15). This could be a continuing problem given the present ratio of about 60% of the residence hall students have vehicles on campus and which may continue to increase.

The following three pages demonstrate an alternative lot re-striping plan developed by Rich and Associates for Lot 16. This configuration re-orients the spaces and shows the potential capacity at 672 spaces for this lot that would be a 52± space increase over the University configuration. Derivatives of this plan eliminate some spaces for drive aisles and pedestrian pathways. The maximum of 672 spaces, if developed, would be an increase of 87 spaces over the current configuration (585 spaces) of this lot.