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UM campus parking

November 30, 1999

As the dust settles in the aftermath of the Maryland Gov. Parris Glendening's decision to put a new University Systems of Maryland campus downtown, it's time for local officials to start looking at one of the project's most pressing needs - parking. Without additional spaces, either in a surface parking or a new deck, this project, and downtown itself can't succeed.

If readers feel that's a gloomy assessment, consider this: After the decision was made, Mayor Robert Bruchey II defended it, saying in part that parking won't be a problem because after 5 p.m., there are 300 empty spaces in the parking deck.

But an early survey indicates that even 300 spaces won't be enough. As part of a $25,000 study to justify the need for a campus here, employees of 79 companies were surveyed and sent back 737 individual responses. Of those who responded, 430 said they were likely to take courses at the campus.

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Those who feel there's no need for additional construction may point to a survey done in May by Stephen Wolfensberger, the city treasurer, who found that after 5 p.m., there are 668 parking spaces available to the public within a three-block area of the Baldwin House.

They may be available, but the bulk of those spaces are either a long walk from the Baldwin House (the Rochester lot of Prospect Street) or involve walking through alleyways to get to the campus site. And while they may be free after 5 p.m., because they're not reserved, there's no guarantee a student will be able to park in the same area every day.

And what will happen, for example, if there's a big event at the Maryland Theatre that fills the parking deck the same night as classes are in session? Actually, we hope that happens more often as the Arts and Entertainment District plans get under way.

University officials said in May that they'd need a minimum of 400 spaces to operate here. Shady Grove, the model for this campus, began with 490, then added another 350 when the student population began to increase.

Isn't that increase what the community wants here? If so, city and county officials have to start work now on adding more parking adjacent to the Baldwin House, or face a host of unhappy students later.

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