INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – IUPUI makes more money than Andrew Luck.
The university doesn’t score touchdowns like the famous Indianapolis Colts quarterback – but it does sell parking spaces.
Through permits, fees and fines the university made more than $19 million last year in parking revenue, an I-Team 8 investigation uncovered through an open records request.
Over the past three years, IUPUI has made more than $55 million, that’s three times more money than Indiana University’s main campus in Bloomington, which brought in $18.3 million over that same three-year period.
A portion of the parking proceeds at IUPUI – roughly $6 million each year – is gathered through meters and parking garages.
That means the university is making a hefty fee off employees, doctors, nurses and families of patients visiting sick loved ones at IU Health’s two hospitals on campus – University Hospital and the Simon Cancer Center.
When asked if that makes parking a “cash cow,” IU administrators denied it.
“No. It’s definitely not a cash cow for the university. The parking has to support itself,” said Tom Morrison, IU’s vice president of capital planning, in a recent interview with I-Team 8.
According to Morrison, parking revenue does not always mean parking profits.
The money gathered from permits, fees and fines is used to support the operating costs for the parking system – meaning that the money can be used to pay down construction bonds or provide necessary maintenance and upkeep.
A $3 million project is proposed to replace the aging wood that surrounds the Vermont Street Garage, he said.
Morrison says parking is considered “an auxiliary” by the university. In other words, the university doesn’t want tuition dollars being affected to support the parking system, which is why the rate structure is set in a way that the proceeds garnered are high enough to cover the operating costs.
Still, some families interviewed by I-Team 8 have raised concerns that the high parking fees are putting them in a difficult position, forcing them to shoulder both the expense of a lengthy hospital stay and cover parking garage fees that can quickly add up.
An I-Team 8 analysis found that the parking rates at the garages next to both University Hospital and the Simon Cancer Center outpace almost every other hospital in the Indianapolis area – including others within the IU Health system. What’s more, the rates are also higher than University Hospital in Louisville and the University of Cincinnati Medical Center – two universities that IUPUI compared itself to during peer-review study examining parking rates.
While parking permit rates for students and employees at the University of Cincinnati were actually higher than IUPUI, UC does not charge patients to park at its on-campus hospital.
“As a patient or a patient visitor you actually pay nothing,” said Brandi Day, the director of parking operations at the UC Medical Center. “They are coming here for a trauma so the last thing they need to be worried about is where they are parking and how much it is going to cost.”
Day said the UC Medical Center is able to keep costs low for visitors because the hospital kicks in some of its own cash to subsidize the parking. (IU Health does this with Riley Children’s Hospital where it owns the garage). The same is not true, however, at the Simon Cancer Center or University Hospital – where IUPUI owns the garages and sets the rates.
“It’s just been really rough,” said Nicole Stephens, whose father has been at University Hospital for weeks battling health complications from pancreatitis.
“Well right now his heart is not doing very well,” Stephens said. “So far I’d say I’ve spent $250 in parking. I don’t understand why they have to charge that much, because they don’t have to. I don’t think it’s right because when you have somebody in the hospital, you want to be with them, especially if they are in critical condition.”
Stephens isn’t alone in describing her concern with the parking costs.
J.R. Lunsford and his wife, Britney, made a recent trip to the Simon Cancer Center after Britney’s doctors were concerned about a lump on her breast. It turned out to be benign but Britney said she and her husband were well aware of the high costs.
“We were told by an IU Health employee to use the valet service because it’s actually a lot cheaper,” said J.R. Lunsford.
Valet parking for patients runs $5, but is $20 for non-patients.
The two parking garages close to the hospitals are owned and operated by IUPUI – not the hospitals. The rates there start at $5 for the first hour and max out at $17 for 12 to 24 hours.
If your loved ones are in the hospital for an extended stay, IU Health does offer monthly parking passes and free parking validations for families with financial needs, but they sometimes require that doctors write notes.
I-Team 8 also learned that free parking isn’t exactly “free.”
IU Health still has to pay IUPUI for the parking revenue that is lost when it validates parking, which usually costs IU Health about $700,000 each year, according to IU Health spokesman Gene Ford.
“It’s worth noting that the parking garages near the IU Health Simon Cancer Center and IU Health University Hospital serve a broad and diverse customer base with different needs, ranging from patients and IU Health team members who use the garages around-the-clock to students and school faculty who primarily use the garages during the day,” Ford said in an email.
Ford said there have been formal complaints lodged about the parking situation, but could not provide raw numbers.
Camy Broeker, IUPUI’s Interim Vice Chancellor of Finance, said the parking rates are set based on “the market value.”
“So we look at the market base, so all of our rates are actually market based,” she said.High control, high dollars
In 2013, IU decided against hiring an outside company to run its parking operations. According to a news release put out at the time, a financial analysis by Goldman Sachs and Walker Parking Consultants found: “the university could reasonably expect to receive $275 million in gross proceeds for its combined parking operations in Bloomington and Indianapolis. A $275 million lease would, after paying off existing debt associated with parking facilities, leave the university with about $210 million to invest in an endowment with annual distributions available to fund initiatives in perpetuity.
The university’s analysis concluded that with internal improvements to the parking operations on both campuses, IU could generate similar — if not greater — revenue over the course of the lease period while maintaining control over its operations.”If you build it they will charge
During last month’s IU Board of Trustees meeting there was a lengthy discussion about project proposals including talk of adding additional buildings on campus.
Whenever that conversation arises, Morrison said, there is also talk about future parking.
IU administrators announced at the board meeting that any future parking built on IUPUI’s campus would be in the form of a parking garage.
Those structures, Morrison said, usually run between $15 to $20 million.
When I-Team 8 asked if that would mean there would be a continued need to have people pay for parking to offset those costs, Morrison said: “That is correct.”Flat fees for visitors
During our interview with Camy Broeker, she said that she had not been made aware of the parking complaints or the concerns about the high cost but added that:
“We will look to see if we can enhance communication (with patients and families) because there are other opportunities for those patients,” she said, referring to both the valet parking service and the parking validation program.
Rates are expected to increase this summer for students and faculty.