As Indiana University moves forward on the possibility of leasing its parking operations in Bloomington and Indianapolis to a private company, we feel the need to repeat the cautionary note we raised when the idea first surfaced in February: Consider the effect on students, employees and visitors before considering the bottom line.
Our focus is the Bloomington campus. As stated six months ago, a strictly dollars-and-cents view might make the case that letting a private concern operate campus parking would have some financial benefit. But IU entered the parking business to provide a service to students, faculty, staff, administrators and visitors to campus. Profit, not service, would be the sole motivation for a private entity.
Is that how students, employees and visitors should be treated?
IU Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Neil Theobald said that many stakeholders have been assembled to consider the parking issue. They will discuss terms and conditions under which the university would be willing to lease the parking operations.
That’s a good sign. At Ohio State, a Big Ten peer that has leased out parking responsibilities, a private company now is allowed to raise rates 5.5 percent a year for the first 10 years of the contract. At that compounded rate, each $50 spent on parking in the first year of the contract would rise to $85.50 by the end. The percentage increase allowed over 10 years would be 71 percent.
The people most likely to pay those rates should have a voice. Controls on potential increases should be much tighter in Bloomington if this goes forward.
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