May 27, 2005

Parking fees to rise for some; other options, services available

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Robin McWilliam, Ph.D.

Parking fees to rise for some; other options, services available

Vanderbilt Medical Center is making a number of changes that affect employees who park on campus.

• Effective July 1, fees are being increased for many, but not all, VUMC parking areas.

• At the two main employee parking garages, substantial fee reductions are being introduced for employees who car pool.

• Through the Metro Transit AccessRide program, VUMC is introducing free shuttle service between home and work for employees with disabilities.

• The Medical Center is providing increased handicapped access on shuttle buses serving campus parking areas. With this change, the parking fee discounts given to employees with handicaps are going to be phased out.

The July 1 fee increases affect all VUMC employee parking areas except the shuttle lots.

South Garage fees will increase 4 percent and all other non-shuttle-lot fees will increase 2 percent. (Parking remains free, with ticket validation, in all areas designated for patients, families and their visitors.)

Parking fees paid by employees cover less than half of Vanderbilt's cost for employee parking, said Ken Browning, director of Plant Operations.

“We want staff and faculty to understand that we're not increasing parking fees to make money,” Browning said. “One purpose is to get employees to consider car pooling or taking Metro buses to work under the Free Ride program. By creating more of a cost differential between parking and the zero cost for the bus or the reduced parking cost for car pooling, we hope to raise awareness and increase utilization of these newer alternatives.”

Last July the Medical Center introduced free Metro Transit bus service to and from work for all employees. (Riders simply swipe their VUMC identification badge when entering the bus.) In its first 10 months, the Free Ride program has roughly doubled the number of employees taking the bus to work, for a current total of approximately 250 riders per day.

No registration is required for Flex Pool, the new VUMC program that gives parking fee reductions to employees registered at the South Garage or the Central Garage who car pool.

Drivers and riders each use their garage access card upon entering and leaving the garage, and rate reductions for the day are credited against the next month's parking fees: two people get a 50 percent parking discount each time they ride together, three people riding together get a 66 percent discount, and four people get a 75 percent discount.

Metro Transit's AccessRide, a specialized van service for people with disabilities who are unable to use regular fixed-route buses, is now free for VUMC employees when traveling between home and work. For ride vouchers, contact Sara Ezell at the Opportunity Development Center, 322-4705.

Handicapped-accessible shuttle bus service began on campus several years ago, and by mid-summer, when VUMC receives the delivery of additional buses, the Medical Center will retire the last remaining parking shuttle buses that lack lifts for wheelchairs.

Because handicapped parking options were previously limited at the Medical Center, disabled employees have been given a 50 percent discount on parking.

Beginning July 1 and continuing over the next three years, parking fees for these employees will be increased annually until they match the fees paid by other employees. As announced in a recent letter to employees with handicaps from Patricia A. Pierce, director of the Opportunity Development Center, the stepwise elimination of the handicap discount is based on the retirement of the last remaining non-handicapped-accessible parking shuttle buses.

Other changes that impact parking options:

• To free more spaces for employees in the Central Garage, last October, VUMC began parking campus construction workers off site at the University's Chestnut Street facility.

• A $2.5 million renovation of the East Garage was recently completed. The renovation improves traffic entry and circulation. And in the South Garage circulation was recently improved with new routing.

• A new parking garage linking the East Garage with the Clinic Garage will be completed by early next year. It is for patients and families.

• Web-based validation of patient and visitor parking tickets was introduced this year, making validation available in many more places and less costly.