Letter from the Student Senate – Parking at Truax

Amanda Love, Student Senate President

A common concern that students have expressed to the Student Senate is that there is insufficient parking at the Truax Campus, and many have asked why we don’t have a multilevel parking ramp. For most students who live outside of Madison, driving to campus is the only way to get there, and even for Madison residents, the alternatives to driving by yourself are sometimes too impractical. Unfortunately, I still see students resort to parking in the fire lanes, with the risk of getting a $20 ticket, or in nearby neighborhoods, so we know we need something more.

In 2010, the Madison College created a facilities master plan for all campuses, which included adding over 390 new parking spaces to the approximately 3,500 existing ones in a three-level parking ramp to be connected to the Truax main building by a covered walkway. So why was this not included in all the construction projects? For quite some time, I’ve heard rumors that the Dane County Regional Airport — who own the land the campus is built on — wouldn’t allow it, or that the swampland made it impossible to build. None of these rumors turned out to be true, however.

There are two main reasons it hasn’t happened yet.

The first is financial. The full scope of all projects included in this plan were about $380 million. However, it is challenging to convince voters to approve something that will raise their taxes. The District Board of Trustees is also interested in keeping the amount the college borrows down, which in turn helps keep interest rates low. So only $133.7 million was actually approved by district voters in the referendum held in November 2010.

The other reason is that all projects were rank ordered based on most pressing needs. The parking structure was listed as the next highest priority behind the current construction project, the Campus Center.

The facilities plan proposed that Madison College could partner with a private company to build and operate such a parking ramp, which is common at many colleges across the country. However, the catch is that to finance it, the current paradigm of cheap parking for everyone would have to end, because the proposed ramp would cost $9 million or more. Since almost everyone wants the closest parking, this would likely mean a tiered parking system, with a premium pass for the ramp and a basic plan for everyone else. Typical rates at parking structures at other colleges tend to be between $100 and $200 per month.

The Student Senate has previously investigated other possibilities to ease parking congestion, and helped produce a transportation demand management plan for Madison College in 2012. Another cost-effective way found to deal with parking is to reduce competition for spaces, by expanding other services like buses, shuttles, and ridesharing. Possibly a combination of the two methods would work best, but in the end it depends on what students are willing to pay for.

We know that every minute you spend looking for parking is a minute you could be doing something else. So what do you think? How valuable do you consider your time? Would you pay several hundred extra dollars per semester to park near the building? How do the bus routes work out for you? The Student Senate would love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact us by email at [email protected], or leave us a message at 608-246-6107.