It's a Privilege to Park

UT has taken away all the free parking in lots near Bass Concert Hall

It's a Privilege to Park

If you're headed to a show at the newly refurbished Bass Concert Hall &ndash or the not-refurbished McCullough Theatre or Bates Recital Hall, for that matter &ndash be sure to pack an extra Hamilton for stashing your car. All that free parking that you used to be able to score in the large, typically empty lots by the LBJ Library and the School of Public Affairs are a thing of the past. The lots are now manned by attendants, and if you don't have a UT permit, you have to pay $10 to park there.

$10. Thanks, UT. You really know how to show a little sympathy for the little guy when economic times are tough.

Granted, folks who are shelling out $50, $60, $75 a ticket for premium concerts and Broadway touring shows at Bass can probably cough up an extra 10 bucks without choking (though not always). But what about the student or classical music lover of limited means just trying to get to a recital at Bates? They may end up paying as much or more to park as they do for the ticket, and that $10 may be a lot harder to spare. (A ten-spot can buy two weeks' worth of ramen.)

And that amount: You're a public university that can afford to spend hundreds of millions on a football stadium, and you decide to charge more for parking than the Long Center, more than it costs to park near Sixth Street, more than it costs to park just about anywhere in town. It's not as if you have many options if you don't want to pay. Along Dean Keeton Boulevard? Good luck. The neighborhood streets north of Dean Keeton? Not nice to the neighbors. The other side of I-35? Pack a lunch. So, UT, you appear to be taking advantage of a situation where you know the customer has no recourse but to pay what you demand.

It calls to mind Lily Tomlin's character Ernestine, the supercilious telephone operator that she created in the days when Ma Bell was almost as huge and monolithic as UT. She'd tell a customer who was complaining about phone service: "We don't care. We don't have to. We're the phone company."

Look, I'm sympathetic to the need for revenue streams in the arts, but this is not a move that will do much to endear you to your customer base. In fact, it's more like a shot in the foot. And if you don't agree, keep reading, and see what Andy Campbell thought of his experience going to see Legally Blonde: The Musical.

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