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

Jan. 26, 2007

Parking system will be operational in early February

by Anne Krapfl

Plans to install and implement a new computerized parking system at the Memorial Union ramp have been delayed about six weeks. In the revised timeline, the new system most likely will start being used Feb. 12.

A quality control issue in the parts manufacturing process in Austria is the cause for the delay, said Gail Ferlazzo, associate director of the Memorial Union. She said the Memorial Union is not the only customer affected. Parking systems for about 20 other clients also were held up while the problem was corrected, she said.

New technology

In October, MU officials announced plans for a new parking system to replace an antiquated system and provide better accountability for parking revenue. Loopholes in the current system have allowed for unpaid parking when vehicles depart after hours, employee theft and unaccounted tickets.

"This is great new technology we're excited about unveiling," Ferlazzo said. "People may be familiar with this kind of parking system from an airport ramp, or city-owned ramps in larger metro areas, but it's not on a lot of university campuses yet."

There still will be south and north entrances and the single north exit. Work at the north and south entrances -- drive lanes, card readers and ticket machines -- was completed last semester. The former pay booth at the exit has been demolished and replaced with a temporary booth several yards farther north. Crews returned to campus this week to install card- and ticket-reading machines and a gate at the exit and three automated pay stations -- free-standing machines that resemble a large ATM machine, Ferlazzo said.

She said the system should be fully wired by Jan. 31. MU officials will test the new system on a limited number of drivers the next week. If it tests well, the system should be operational for all ramp users on Feb. 12.

How it works

The key change with the new system is that daily and hourly users will pay for their parking, before they return to their vehicles, at one of the pay stations or with a cashier at the Memorial Union front desk. The machines will be at these locations:

  • In the parking ramp, elevator lobby on level 1
  • In the Memorial Union, first floor east entrance by the newspaper boxes (near MU Café and Onion's)
  • 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 July.

The machines will accept bills, coins and credit cards. Tickets are validated and returned to drivers. A validated ticket inserted into the ticket reader at the exit lifts the gate arm and drivers are free to go.

Permit holders

Ferlazzo said drivers who have semester or annual permits for the ramp no longer will have to deal with tickets. In the next few weeks, they will be issued proximity cards, and card readers at the entrances and exit will permit them to come and go as they need to.

Paying for your guests

Ferlazzo said the new system offers more options for units or individuals that want to pay for parking for their campus guests or clients. Such tickets must be ordered at least three business days before the date needed (and if you order early enough, you can distribute them before guests arrive on campus). Contact Ferlazzo for more information on these options.

The University Book Store will continue to pay for one hour of ramp parking for drivers who make a minimum $10 purchase at the store.


MU parking system: How it works for hourly or daily users

1. Take a ticket as you enter the ramp.

2. Take the ticket with you after you have parked your vehicle.

3. When it's time to return to your vehicle, stop first at one of three pay stations or at the MU front desk to pay for your parking (your validated ticket will be returned to you).

4. Keep moving; you have a 15-minute grace period to get to your vehicle and arrive at the exit gate (this length can be adjusted by MU staff on high-traffic days).

5. At the exit gate, insert your validated ticket into the ticket reader to raise the gate arm. It's not possible to pay at the exit gate (and there's no pull-off lane if you forgot to pay).

Learn more about the new parking system during an info session in the MU next week:

  • Jan. 29, 4 p.m., Room TBA
  • Jan. 30, 9 a.m., Room TBA