The first snowfall of the year can bring hazardous driving conditions and slow commutes, but this year, it also led to some irate CampusParc customers.
Some Ohio State employees with parking passes that allow for garage access became flustered after CampusParc closed off rooftop parking earlier this week because of wintery conditions.
“You can’t just close three or four floors and still expect everyone to still be able to find parking. There’s just not enough,” said Ken Sigler, associate director for admissions for the College of Dentistry.
Sigler — who owns an “A” permit that allows for garage access during the day — said he was given a citation by CampusParc after he had parked in an area toward the top of the Neil Avenue Garage that had been blocked off.
He said CampusParc barricades had been pushed aside and about 15-20 cars were parked in the once-protected area.
“I assumed that CampusParc had moved them and they had taken care of any issues with the ice and that I was able to park there,” he said.
But CampusParc maintains that it closed the rooftops because it cannot use salt to melt the ice because the garages are made of concrete — and excessive salt use would result in damage to the structure and need repairs. It also maintains it didn’t move the barricades.
David Hoover, a spokesman for CampusParc, said people who push barricades aside to park on sectioned-off rooftops are only making matters worse.
“This prevents us from being able to effectively remove the snow and ice during the day. Once the temperatures drop to a certain point (such as those we have experienced the last few days), rubber blades, which are required on snowplows in garages, become ineffective and will not remove the hardened ice piles,” he said in an email.
Still, Hoover said CampusParc isn’t sitting idle when winter weather strikes.
“Four contractors have been hired to plow all surface lots and garages. But no amount of planning allows us to deal with snow and ice on garage rooftops any more effectively or quickly than we are currently doing,” he said.
Hoover said garage roofs are similar to bridges in that they are elevated and get icy very quickly, but unlike bridges, they don’t get the speed, friction and high volume of cars repeatedly driving over them that helps snow and ice melt and then evaporate.
Garage rooftops were closed when commuters arrived Monday morning. They reopened at 6 a.m. on Thursday, a CampusParc representative said.
Hoover said it is unclear how many parking spots were made unavailable because of the closures. He did say, however, that there are approximately 36,000 parking spaces on campus, which includes 16 garages with about 13,000 spaces.
But Kayla Luttrell, associate director of development in the College of Public Health, said she doesn’t buy CampusParc’s comparison to bridges.
She said unlike OSU’s parking garages, two days later, bridges aren’t still closed.
“Our state and city governments take the tax money we pay to provide services to make sure that their ‘product’ remains operational during those times (i.e. salt). With the absurd amount of money we all pay to park in your garages, you are failing at your mission to provide ‘high-quality parking services’ if you can’t even keep your ‘product’ operational,” she said in an email to the parking company that she forwarded to The Lantern.
The issue was also brought up in Thursday’s University Senate session when optometry professor Dr. Donald Mutti told the group CampusParc was not fulfilling its obligations from their concession agreement regarding the snowfall on Monday.
“The concession agreement clearly calls for, in anticipation of bad weather, plowing the rooftop parking spaces. That wasn’t done. There wasn’t the clearing of snow until Wednesday,” Mutti said during the meeting.
Hoover said this isn’t the first year for such practices, though.
“Garage rooftops have been closed in wintry weather whenever deemed necessary to protect customer safety since 1996, well before CampusParc began parking operations at Ohio State. That included last winter, which was particularly harsh here in Ohio,” he said in a follow-up email.
Two years ago, OSU leased its parking operations to Australian private investment firm QIC Global Infrastructure in a 50-year, $483 million deal. CampusParc, the company that runs the day-to-day parking services, was created as part of the contract.
Hoover said all citation rates are predetermined and have been approved by the university and can be found on CampusParc’s website. All closure information can be found there as well, he said.
Amanda Etchison contributed to this story.