Thank you once again for the comments and questions you are submitting in response to my columns. I read every one of them. You are presenting a variety of issues-some large, some small-but they all give me insight into what you are thinking and dealing with on a daily basis.
I'm sharing your input with the appropriate leaders who can act on this information where possible. Some of the issues are large and intractable, so achieving real improvement will take time and persistent effort, but that's even more reason to take them on.
About one-sixth of the comments I've received deal with some aspect of parking, including the shuttle service and the ability to get around campus. So today's topic is parking.
I want to be right up front about this: compared to where we were three years ago with parking, yes, it is bad. When you're searching for the last space in the last row of the overflow lot along West Street, it's really bad. Especially when it's raining.
And while most of the comments I have received have expressed frustrations, there are some who have shared that free parking only ten minutes away is a great improvement over where they last worked or went to school. In addition, I want you to know that as I hear and read your comments and concerns about parking, I agree with all of you. This is not a situation of right or wrong. All parties bring up valid issues, but when you do the math, we simply cannot place all who want to park in the closest garage in that garage.
The most important thing to remember is, the worst of this is temporary. When Garage C comes online beside the School of Dentistry about 18 months from now, we'll have almost 1,000 additional spaces on campus. The Meridian mixed use housing project, well under way on Lakeland Drive, should take an additional 200-300 cars out of our system around the same time. These and other developments will relieve pressure on the stadium lots and provide more spaces for not only employees but also patients and visitors on the core campus.
The other thing I encourage you to do is to keep parking in perspective. All campuses struggle with this issue. And even in our current situation, UMMC stacks up well against peers. To assess that, we did a quick survey of five academic medical centers in the Southeast to compare ourselves on factors like access and cost. Here's what we learned:
- Only two of the five campuses provide free parking to some segment of their employees. In contrast, our stadium lots are free to all who park there. UMMC is the only campus in the group that does not charge students to park.