UNLV parking projects debut this semester


UNLV’s Tropicana Parking Garage added over 700 spaces with the recent expansion. Image courtesy the UNLV website.

This semester, UNLV finished expanding the Tropicana Parking Garage, replacing on-campus parking meters with its pay-by-phone system and replacing physical parking permits with a license plate registration system. 

The recent expansion increased the size of the garage by 758 spaces, according to the UNLV website. Tad McDowell, director of UNLV’s Parking and Transportation Services, said that this expansion was planned when initially designing the garage in 2006. 

“Whenever you plan a garage for expansion, you have to do it when you build the original structure,” said McDowell. 

Students appreciate the bigger garage, but some say it feels about as full as before. 

“It still gets full, which kinda sucks,” said Kai Merafuentes, a UNLV sophomore. “Like obviously I can park on the roof, but I just haven’t since it’s still hot and sunny.” 

Merafuentes said that it seems like a lot of people who used to park in the lots in front of the Thomas and Mack started parking in the Tropicana garage after the expansion.

Merafuentes parks in the Tropicana garage nearly every time he is on campus. He said that the expansion makes it easier for him to visit his girlfriend, who lives in nearby student housing, so he appreciates it.

The price for the recent expansion started to cost students during the 2021 school year. 

According to McDowell, price increases began during the 2021 school year, when the price for parking permits increased by $5 per month. They reduced the rate of increase this fall, when the permit prices increased by $3 a month. McDowell said that parking permit prices will only increase by $1 per month in the future. 

McDowell said that despite the recent increases, UNLV’s parking permits still remain cheaper than many other universities. 

At the University of Nevada, Reno the current cost for yearly student parking passes ranges from $159 for an annual evening pass to $599 for a pass to park in the yellow parking zones on campus, passes with reserved access cost $742, according to their website. A UNLV annual student parking permit currently costs $246, according to UNLV’s website

UNLV’s Parking and Transportation Services is a self-funded department, according to McDowell. The department makes money mostly through permit sales, the pay-by-phone system, events and citations. 

Citations, or tickets, issued on campus can cost anywhere from $10 to $500, according to the UNLV Parking and Transportation Services website. Parking violations only range from $20 to $50 in price. Unpaid tickets can result in students being unable to register for classes, vehicles being impounded with a boot on the tire and vehicles being towed. 

“Parking gets a negative connotation because of the tickets we have to write,” said McDowell. “Those are done to protect our permit holders.”

Parking and Transportation Services no longer uses physical parking permits, instead using a registry of license plates to identify who has a parking permit. This system was pilot tested a semester ago, and is fully implemented this semester, according to Sandy Ziegler, assistant director of UNLV’s Parking and Transportation Services.

Merafuentes said he likes this new system, although he can’t back into spaces anymore since he doesn’t have a front license plate. 

Ziegler said that students who have trouble registering their car for their parking pass should first make sure that their license plate perfectly matches with their information on their parking profile. 

UNLV’s online pay-by-phone system fully replaced all meters on campus. Signs explaining how to use the system now take the place of where the meters used to be. 

“Now you get the reminders by your phone,” said Ziegler, “you know where you’re parking and you have that matching information.”
Parking and Transportation Services offers motorist assistance like jump starts and tire inflation, as well as transportation alternatives. The full list of services offered by UNLV’s Parking and Transportation Services, as well as information on parking permits and citations can all be found on the department’s website.



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Mike McNamara

Mike McNamara

A Las Vegas Realtor since 2008. Mike has a wide range of knowledge around all things Las Vegas.

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