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Inside Iowa State, a newspaper for faculty and staff, is published by the Office of University Relations.

Oct. 20, 2006

Automated system in MU ramp to begin in December

by Anne Krapfl

The Memorial Union is phasing in an automated pay system for the parking ramp this fall to replace an antiquated system and provide better accountability for parking revenue.

The new system also will generate data about use patterns that will help the university make the most effective use of the facility.

The first phase of work -- new drive lanes, card reader and ticket machine at the south entrance -- occurred last week. Similar work is planned for the north entrance beginning Nov. 13 and lasting about a week. The final phase, including demolition of the existing exit booth and the addition of card- and ticket-reading machines and a gate at the exit, should occur the week after winter commencement in December.

Much of the way drivers use the ramp will stay the same. There still will be south and north entrances and the single north exit. The key change is that daily and hourly users will pay for their parking at one of three automated pay machines at the Memorial Union or with a cashier at the hotel front desk before they return to their vehicles. The machines will be installed, also in December, at these locations:

  • In the parking ramp, elevator lobby on level 1
  • In the Memorial Union, first floor east entrance (near Onion's and the MU Café)
  • In the Memorial Union, second floor hallway, near the Gold Room. This machine will be moved to the northeast elevator tower addition to the MU when that is completed in January.

The machines will take bills, coins and credit cards.

"We'll have to retrain people to take their tickets with them into the Memorial Union, but we'll have signs everywhere to remind them," said Gail Ferlazzo, associate director of the Memorial Union who's overseeing the changes.

When hourly or daily patrons have paid for their parking, they'll receive a validated ticket. Ferlazzo said there will be a 15-minute grace period for drivers to get to their cars and use the validated ticket at the exit gate.

All MU ramp permit holders will be issued proximity cards. There will be card readers at the entrances and exit, and permit holders can come and go as they need to, without having to take tickets every time they enter the ramp.

The automated pay system will eliminate the seven part-time student jobs in the exit booth. However, students will be hired to serve as ramp greeters on busy event days. The full-time Merit position will be kept, although the duties will evolve with the new system, Ferlazzo said.

Change needed

Ferlazzo said university auditors encouraged leaders at the Memorial Union to tie up loopholes in the existing parking system or find a new one. Loopholes in the current system have allowed for unpaid parking when vehicles depart after hours, employee theft and unaccounted tickets.

Last fall, Walker Parking Consultants, Minneapolis, completed a study of the MU parking ramp, looking specifically at access for permit holders and managing cash revenue. Ferlazzo said the kind of automated system Iowa State chose to install was one of several options identified in the Walker report.

In addition to being a more secure system for cash revenues and in operation 24 hours a day, Ferlazzo said the automated system will track all kinds of statistics about use of the parking ramp. Down the line, that information could help the Memorial Union market special permits, for example, an evening-only permit.

Until the automated system is fully implemented in late December, drivers will receive a ticket from a machine as they enter and continue to pay a cashier in the exit booth as they leave.


An automated pay system should be operational in the Memorial Union parking ramp by late December. A key change is that hourly and daily users will pay for their parking before they return to their vehicles.


"We'll have to retrain people to take their tickets with them into the Memorial Union, but we'll have signs everywhere to remind them."

Gail Ferlazzo, associate director, Memorial Union