August 8, 2008

Parking at VMC a complex, often misunderstood issue

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Vanderbilt Medical Center’s garages and surface lots handle an average of 25,000 vehicles per day. (photo by Dana Johnson)

Parking at VMC a complex, often misunderstood issue

Few issues at Vanderbilt Medical Center generate as much intense interest, discussion and passion on the part of employees and visitors as parking.

Parking is one of those things, like the weather, that impacts nearly every person here on a daily basis.

And there are a great many people here. On average, 25,000 vehicles belonging to employees, patients and visitors park at VMC each day, Monday through Friday. That's a staggering number of cars and trucks rotating in and out of the Medical Center's parking inventory, which consists of 12,l59 spaces in numerous garages and surface lots spread across the campus.

According to Ken Browning, director of Plant Services for VMC, as the Medical Center grows, so too does the need for parking.

“We project growth in parking by when new buildings, facilities and programs come on line, such as Medical Research Building IV. We look at our current inventory of spaces, add in what we predict will open, then add 4.5 percent for growth.”

Current projections call for the demand for parking to rise to 13,169 spaces by 2010. Keeping pace with that growth will be accomplished in a variety of ways, Browning said.

First, construction is under way on a new parking garage on Children's Way, across from the Blair School of Music, that will add 1,400 spaces for Medical Center personnel. The $42 million garage is scheduled to open in fall 2010.

Second, as more people and programs move to Vanderbilt Health at One Hundred Oaks over the next year, an estimated 500 employee parking spaces around the Medical Center will be freed up.

Third, the number of employees who take advantage of the Medical Center's mass transit benefits is expected to continue growing. Currently, about 500 people use the service, which covers the cost of Nashville’s MTA bus service and offers steep discounts on the Music City Star commuter rail service. The number of riders is projected to rise above 700 over the next year. Providing this benefit costs the Medical Center $69 per person, per month; a cost that continues to rise as MTA raises its rates. Also, a new van service is available. For more information on this, go to VMC Parking and Transportation Services Web site at

Myth vs. Reality

Meanwhile, misconceptions about parking at the Medical Center abound.

Here are some facts:

Myth — The Medical Center makes money on parking.

Reality — Total parking revenue from employees and paying visitors is about $3 million per year. Total cost for all parking operations, however, is about $13 million per year. The Medical Center absorbs the $10 million difference. Also, the average cost for creating a new parking space (including construction cost, operating expense and debt service) is $125 per month, while the average monthly revenue from an employee for that same space is only $17.50.

Myth — Parking at the Medical Center is expensive.

Reality — The cost for employees to park at the Medical Center ranges anywhere from $3.75 to $125 per month, depending on location. People who work and park in downtown Nashville pay an average $101 per month for surface lots, $144 per month for garages, with no shuttle service.

Myth — Central Parking Services (the outside firm that manages many Vanderbilt parking facilities) receives the money generated from employee parking fees.

Reality — Central Parking's management fee is based on a negotiated percentage of their actual expense at a rate that is in line with similar contracts between Vanderbilt and other outside service providers.

Myth — Central Parking makes money by owning Medical Center garages.

Reality — The Medical Center owns all of the capital assets of its parking program, including all the land, garages, other structures and shuttles (some of these are leased).

Myth — The Medical Center doesn't provide any free parking.

Reality — Parking is free at the off-site lot (No. 127) at Greer Stadium. Shuttle service runs every 15 minutes from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Myth — Soon, I'll be able to park for free at Vanderbilt Health at One Hundred Oaks and ride a shuttle to and from the main campus.

Reality — While parking is expected to be adequate at One Hundred Oaks, it will not support parking for those who don't actually work there. Employees will not be able to “park and ride.”