UH parking rate hike delayed for one year, but still going up 30% for students

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) – The University of Hawaii wants to increase parking fees for students and employees but is delaying the fee hike for one year.

UH surveyed its main parking structure on lower campus near Stan Sheriff Center a year ago and found the building is in bad shape.

There are two structures, one built in the early 1970s and the other built in the mid 1990s. An engineering firm found the facilities need about $16 million in repairs. Among the most expensive findings: $1.4 million to modernize elevators and $3.9 million for electrical work. The parking structure also needs major architectural, structural and mechanical work to stop leaks and flooding that plague the parking building when it rains.

"There's like huge puddles like in the parking lot and people don't even want to park in the parking stalls because it's flooded.  I don't even park in there," said UH sophomore Shay Long.

So the UH is proposing a ten percent increase in students' parking rates, which are currently $426 a year, starting in the fall of 2013, eventually increasing annual parking fees by 30 percent to $579 after five years.

"I don't mind paying a little bit more for safety reasons," said, Long, a biology major from Kaneohe.

UH junior Max Uyeda, who drove his truck to a summer school biology class Tuesday morning, said he understands the need for the hikes.

"I don't like paying more money, obviously, I already pay enough to go to school and I can barely afford it as it is.  But I understand that what it's going to.  It's going back to us as students, so I think that's a good thing," Uyeda said. "Increasing these rates won't help me or my classmates, but it will help future generations, and I think that's a good thing."

Alexandra Moody, a UH senior who commutes to UH from the North Shore, doesn't like the idea.

"We already pay so much with the tuition increases, that an increase in parking, even though there needs to be maintenance on the structure, it's huge for us," Moody said. "We're such a commuter school in general that it's not fair to us, it's really not."

Last October, the UH Regents approved a plan to increase tuition at all UH campuses by 35 percent over the next five years.

UH is also proposing to raise lower campus parking rates for employees by 15-percent starting next year to $493 annually, eventually hiking employee parking by 50 percent over five years to 690 dollars a year.  Employees who park on UH Manoa's upper campus and pay $579 a year now would see a 55 percent hike over five years to $975 a year.

Some UH employees said their current annual parking rates are a bargain compared to parking downtown Honolulu that can cost $200 to $300 a month or higher. But others complained that UH clerical and blue collar staff hit with three years of pay cuts will be hard pressed to pay more to park at work.

UH Director of Campus Services Deborah Huebler said UH originally planned to raise rates this fall but was able put off the parking increase for a year because a parking structure waterproofing project is costing $1 million less than expected. The bid for the work, that is scheduled to begin in July, came in at $1.8 million instead of $2.8 million, she said.

"That was significantly lower than we predicted, so we could postpone a rate increase," Huebler said.

The parking proposal still has to go to a public hearing in the months ahead before the UH Regents vote on it.

UH Manoa parking rates have gone up in each of the last two years, Huebler said, by 25 percent on the upper campus and 15 percent on the lower campus.

For twelve years before that, between 1998 and 2009, UH Manoa parking fees did not increase. That severely challenged the UH's ability "to keep up with important repair and maintenance projects, to say nothing of other operating costs, which steadily increase as a result of inflation," said Raymond Shito, manager of UH parking and transportation in a letter to students and employees in February, when the rate hike proposals were unveiled.

As a self-supporting arm of UH, Parking Services funds its operations exclusively by the revenues it generates, Shito said.  The proposed fee increases were calculated to meet the expenses of deferred maintenance projects over several years, he said. 

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