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OSU parking privatization worse than you possibly could have imagined

i Apr 18th 13 Comments by

I have been naive about the proposal to privatize parking at OSU. Until today I was thinking, “OK, well that probably sucks for all sorts of reasons, but at least it will raise parking rates and that could make people less inclined to drive to campus.” Indeed, parking fees under the plan would be raised at least 7.5% each year for the next 10 years—which is good for people like me who would prefer that the cost of driving is high enough to discourage it. But then I talked to an OSU employee who told me a choice tidbit from the contract currently being developed. And yes, it is worse than you possibly could have imagined for efforts to promote active transportation on campus.

The crux of it is this: Under the new contract, any action the university takes that could reduce the demand for parking spaces would constitute a “compensation event” that requires them to compensate the parking company for their lost revenue.


[Let that sink in for a minute...]


OK, so say, for example, that OSU wants to add another CABS bus route. In addition to the cost of providing that service, the university would have to compensate the parking company relative to how much loss they anticipate from people taking the bus instead of driving to campus. The actual formula will not be revealed, of course, but it will be based on current parking demand. Which means that, for the next 50 years (!), OSU could take no action to reduce parking demand below what it is today, unless they chose to take money from their general fund to pay for mode shift initiatives that cost above the market rate. Likely? Uh, no. And what all would constitute a “compensation event”? No idea. Word is the companies are trying hard to even restrict carpooling options, so it’s hard to say how far this will go.


There are other issues with parking privatization as well, like the fact that everyone hates it, that the process seems to have been conducted in secrecy during times when few people are on campus and that it would decimate OSU’s Transportation & Parking Services department (which is responsible for accommodating all transportation modes on campus). But this train may have already left the station. OSU’s Board of Trustees has approved it and a bidding process among four companies is currently underway, with a contract to be signed this August.


To be clear—parking privatization with a compensation event clause will utterly derail efforts to promote active, sustainable transportation at The Ohio State University. Tell OSU President Gordon Gee, Chief Financial Officer Geoff Chatas and Provost Joseph Alutto how you feel about it! It’s time we got hip to this plan, realized its implications and started causing a big fat ruckus over it—especially since it there are reports that OSU staff members may fear retaliation from doing so themselves.


  1. Tricia Kovacs
    April 18, 2012 at 7:11 am

    I was just at OSU yesterday and marvelled at the improvements made for cyclists on campus – sharrows and bike racks everywhere. I wonder if adding new bicycle infrastructure would require the university to compensate the parking company for lost revenue. Our friends at T&P have been ever helpful to accommodate us for bicycle education programs. Thanks for letting us know about the drawbacks with the privatization plan and I’ll write to those folks you mentioned. I don’t understand how this could be good for the university from a financial perspective – doesn’t parking provide a steady revenue source?

  2. Austin Kocher
    April 18, 2012 at 10:31 am

    Totally bogus polices!!! The institutions are against cyclists.

  3. Subverita
    April 18, 2012 at 11:24 am

    Sent to;; on 4/18/12 at 11:20


    I am a graduate and a neighbor to the Ohio State University. As such, I consider myself a stake holder in the choices being made regarding parking at the university. I feel it unwise to include a “compensation event” clause in any contract being considered for parking at the university.

    Accepting such a contract is guaranteeing business for the contractor in a business climate where such a thing, in and of itself, it impractical. It’s like subsidizing farmers to not grow crops. It had its place one time, but such market manipulation no longer is practical. For the contractor to be able to avoid the effects of a free market is unfair and an unnecessary burden for the university to assume.

    In addition to this, such a clause would impose additional cost for the university for considering, implementing or promoting alternatives to the inefficient, single-driver, single-car mode of transportation already supported and maintained by the university.

    It’s simply ludicrous to bare additional cost for promoting a healthier more efficient alternative to the most environmentally devastating mode of transportation the planet has known.

    Your neighbor,
    Kenneth Cohen
    U.A., Ohio

  4. michael
    April 18, 2012 at 12:39 pm


    Do you have anything official from OSU that states this is part of the contract?
    Do you know of a way to ask so that the FAQ published by the university here ( can be updated to clarify this point?

      April 18, 2012 at 12:49 pm

      I don’t have a copy of the (draft) contract and I’m not sure if i can get one. I’ll ask tho! I got this info from a person involved in the negotiations within OSU.

    • chase
      April 18, 2012 at 5:40 pm


      This point is true. Anything OSU does to take away business from the concessionaire (this includes building new parking, or encouraging large groups of people not to drive to campus) is considered a compensation event and the university will need to pay, an example can be found in the Chicago parking deal:

  5. megan
    April 18, 2012 at 5:47 pm

    I attended a meeting on campus about this and the only way to look at the draft proposal (it is not a contract yet but a proposal for bids) is to go in person to the office of business and finance.

  6. Andrew
    April 18, 2012 at 7:37 pm

    This would seriously put Pedal Instead at risk for future home football games.

  7. Me
    April 18, 2012 at 11:33 pm

    I think that you must be careful with the language here. If the language specifically addressed “parking spaces” then that has nothing to do with encouraging people to use alternative transportation methods.

    The actual act of removing spaces is the issue. Not “campaigns to reduce use”.

      April 18, 2012 at 11:40 pm

      I don’t think that’s true. Adding a bus line was specifically cited as a compensation event, and that has no impact on parking spaces. I really think at issue are any actions that affect demand for parking. Obviously, though, we would need to check out the draft proposal to see the exact language.

      • JD
        April 19, 2012 at 10:46 am

        Its okay, transit is funded by parking, and without parking, there won’t be any money to add a bus line.

        • Bill Clinton
          April 19, 2012 at 11:26 am

          Ha ha, thats true. Weird to think that OSU might not add a single CABS route for 50 years!

    • Bill Clinton
      April 19, 2012 at 11:35 am

      You mentioned the ‘act of removing spaces is the issue.’ Unfortunately, there is another side to that coin. Last I saw the compensation event language in the proposal is centred around parking demand, although the NET removal of existing parking spaces would also be a compensation event. OSU could relocate parking spaces and not be a compensation event, but if there is a net reduction, OSU will be paying per space reduced.


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