It’s not hard to find anti-CampusParc rhetoric on the Internet or on campus, but CampusParc representatives said it’s all a matter of misperception.
David Teed, CEO of CampusParc, said the negative public perception of CampusParc is based on false assumptions about the terms of the concession agreement.
“One of the perceptions … is that CampusParc, or QIC, is a for-profit organization that is somehow going to be gouging the users of the OSU parking system, when neither are we that kind of an organization, nor do we have the rights to affect pricing at all,” Teed said.
CampusParc is a private company that manages parking services at Ohio State. The university agreed to a 50-year lease on its parking assets for the upfront price of $483 million. QIC Global Infrastructure, an Australian investment firm, placed the bid and created CampusParc to operate the parking facilities. The deal was finalized and approved by the Board of Trustees in June 2012.
The $483 million paid to OSU came from the pool of pension funds which QIC manages, so CampusParc’s monetary goal over the 50 years of the agreement is to make back that money, plus inflation, by 2062 in order to maintain those pensions, Teed said.
CampusParc President Sarah Blouch, who led OSU’s Parking & Transportation prior to the CampusParc agreement, said while CampusParc is responsible for maintaining and upgrading university assets, it will get the cash flow that comes from them in return, including the profits from the sale of parking passes and hourly parking fees.
The agreement caps the rate increase on parking at 5.5 percent annually for the first 10 years. After 10 years, rates are set to be capped at 4 percent or a rolling five-year average of inflation, whichever is greater.
“The university has always set the pricing, continues to set the pricing, and for the next 50 years will set the pricing,” Teed said.
Teed said CampusParc does not necessarily want price increases because it is riskier to charge more as a pension manager, but OSU figured price increases into the $483 million contract.
David Hoover, spokesman for CampusParc, said the annual price increases for parking permits were more sporadic before the concession agreement, as much as 10 percent.
“The benefit now is that the price is pre-established, so it’s not going to be a surprise year after year,” Hoover said.
Teed said the pricing of parking fines, which are handed out by CampusParc, is also specified in the agreement, though any money earned from fines goes to OSU.
“By excluding the revenue … we’re not going to be wrongly accused of trying to profit from writing citations,” Teed said.
Blouch said the net revenue from parking citations is passed on to the university after expenses are deducted.
Since there is no profit for CampusParc in enforcing fines, Hoover said issuing citations is a “necessary evil” because it keeps parking spaces open for those who paid for passes.
Andrew Smith, a third-year in operations management, said he received a $54 fine recently for using his purchased pass with a car that wasn’t registered to it.
“They swarm around in those cars that look like the ‘Jurassic Park’ jeeps, so if you’re out of place, they’ll get you,” Smith said.
Smith said he successfully appealed the fine for a reduction and only owed $6.
“I’d say (CampusParc employees are) annoying because they take their job so seriously, but (aren’t) unwilling to help you out if you need it,” Smith said.
Meghan Wood, a second-year in exploration, said CampusParc is overzealous in enforcing parking policy.
“Sometimes there are too many hoops to jump through and rules to abide by just to be able to park,” Wood said.
Teed said, though, CampusParc doesn’t control parking policy.
“The university controls parking policy, just as it always has,” Teed said.
Teed said misconceptions re-emerged when it was announced Buckeye Village’s parking would no longer be free, a decision which CampusParc did not control.
“(People) just assume that because parking is being privatized, the private company has control of these things,” Teed said.
Buckeye Village residents were told by OSU last month that parking passes would cost $150 for the 2014-15 academic year for lots that were previously free. This amount is lower than the $402 or $620 that had been talked about before residents protested the change. The decision, though, was made by the university.
Operations of the parking areas are actually managed by a contractor, LAZ Parking, whom CampusParc hired, Teed said.
“CampusParc is obligated to deliver a parking experience in accordance with OSU’s standards,” Teed said. “CampusParc contracts LAZ to deliver a parking experience on exactly the same terms. So, if LAZ isn’t performing, our job is to manage LAZ before the university manages us.”
LAZ did not respond to an email requesting comment.
Teed said CampusParc keeps track of customer satisfaction through surveys, though it’s careful not to ask questions about circumstances it isn’t responsible for, like the number of parking spaces centrally located on campus or traffic issues outside parking garages.
Hoover said, however, CampusParc is involved in a transportation study currently being conducted by OSU, so its input is being considered in the future regarding these problems.
“The benefit of having … operators who wake up every morning thinking about parking is that they … advocate for the realities of accessibility of parking lots,” Hoover said. “It’s evidence of that partnership that operators here are at the table and bringing some things that might otherwise not be considered because they deal with them every day and monitor those kinds of patterns.”
Interim OSU President Joseph Alutto said in a Sept. 23 interview with The Lantern construction on parking facilities had led some to blame CampusParc for inconveniences administered by OSU.
“We’ve heard people complaining that it’s more difficult to get parking. And of course they blame the new vendor, but the vendor had nothing to do with it,” he said. “These were decisions we (the university) made. Parking that needed to be taken out of commission to allow us to do, for example, mass construction equipment and will be returned to the university in terms of availability within the next year.”
The agreement between OSU and QIC is the first of its kind between a public university and a private company, Teed said, and the public perception of how it funds parking infrastructure improvements is still being smoothed out.
“When a pension fund talks about investing in a toll road (in the U.S.) it is seen as … a negative, rather than as a win-win as we see it in (Australia),” Teed said. “The (infrastructure) debate in America hasn’t caught up yet, so while America acknowledges daily … how the infrastructure sucks, the reality is that they haven’t completed the thinking on how to fund infrastructure yet.”